In 2014, “the year of the Republican,” California was only the state in the nation that lost solidly Republican seats to Democrats. As the election results rolled in, the perfect, red Republican wave came to a crashing end on California’s sandy beaches.
Despite being denied every statewide office, Republican leaders were rejoicing as if they’d turned California red. It is sad that regaining a handful of previously lost Republican seats and increasing a legislative minority would constitute massive success for the California GOP.
To better understand the California 2014 election, let’s look at two congressional seats.
Gary Miller’s open Congressional seat, District 31 (rated D+5) covers a large portion of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties–including Redlands, Rancho Cucamonga and San Bernardino–and this year was the site of a showdown between Republicans and Democrats. Because this open seat was held by a Republican, it’s a prime example of how the National and California GOP operates.
Instead of rallying fundraising or bringing in major national figures to support Republican Congressional hopeful Paul Chabot, the Republican Party did virtually nothing. Speaker John Boehner had no problem flying to San Diego to aid the troubled campaign of Carl DeMaio,, but did nothing to aid Chabot.
DeMaio lost; Chabot could have won if he’d received just a fraction of the GOP help afforded DeMaio.
In the final days of the campaign, the Democratic National Congressional Committee brought in Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton to campaign for Democrat Paul Aguilar. The Republican National Congressional Committee response? Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Chabot was left to fend for himself. In the end, the Republicans lost this seat by
While it was a much better year for Republicans in California than in the past, the election was hardly a ringing endorsement of the Republicans’ new “demography-is-destiny” playbook. California GOP Chairman Brulte traveled all over the state preaching a mantra that “>In Assembly District 26, Devon Mathis won out over GOP Establishment favorite, moderate Rudy Mendoza. Mendoza was endorsed by former seat-holder and GOP Minority Leader, Connie Conway. The underdog, Mathis, was endorsed and supported by the likes of myself, the Reagan League, and clearly, the people.
In spite of a great deal of talk about “discipline” when it comes to avoiding Republican-on-Republican civil wars in this election, the California GOP did nothing to restrain major donors like Charles Munger, Jr., whose obsession with remaking the Republican party into a moderate version of the Democrat party was on display all over the state. Munger spent more money against Republicans than against Democrats.
In Senate District 28, the California GOP and their major donors lost a bloody civil war by backing liberal Republican Bonnie Garcia over conservative Republican Jeff Stone. In the end, almost $4 million was squandered on a State Senate seat where even without a single dollar spent, a Republican would have won.
The GOP is rendered useless when it condones squandering precious resources purging conservative Republicans instead of working to restrain donors who insist on engaging in these pyrrhic civil wars.
Can you imagine what a fraction of that money could have done for:
Republican Joe Gardner (AD 48) lost by 8% but performed 21% better than registration in his district. The matchup between Gardner and Democrat Roger Hernandez was a compelling one, but Gardner lost because he lacked the resources to reach enough voters with his mailers (“Joe Gardner spent 30 years in the front seat of a police car, while our current Assemblyman Roger Hernandez has only seen the back seat.”). Gardner happens to be Latino, but focused the campaign on the content of his opponent’s character, rather than the color of his own skin. Once again, conservatives–even Hispanic conservatives–were left to fend for themselves.
The Republican wave across the country was a strong mandate for two things: repealing Obamacare and rejecting amnesty. After a period of hibernation, limited government has become nationally popular again. This election has sent a clear message: if the GOP communicates that smaller government increases personal freedom, it can find new converts among those who recently have become fed up with Obama’s agenda–but it must hold the line.
In spite of abundant evidence to the contrary, California GOP leaders seem to think this election was a ringing endorsement of their strategy to turn the party into the moderate wing of the Democrat party.
And that’s exactly what the Democrats are hoping they’ll do, because it will ensure that the year of the Republican was just a fluke.