A Raucous Night at the GOP Central Committee

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010|The ghosts of the past combined with the ambitions of June last night at the Republican Central Committee meeting at the Irvine Hyatt near John Wayne Airport, as a host of candidates vied openly for the endorsement of central committee members.

Ultimately, Fullerton Councilman Shawn Nelson got a two-thirds endorsement over Anaheim Councilman Harry Sidhu for the fourth district county supervisor slot. Nobody got the endorsement for sheriff or for county treasurer/tax collector.

Just as things were getting underway, Republican political consultant Matt Holder — also a central committee member — let loose that the whole idea of endorsing Republicans over Republicans was insanity and a replay of the bloodletting debate in 2006 that everyone agreed would never happen again.

That year, political operatives with former Sheriff Mike Carona (who was months away from getting indicted) clashed with supporters of Lt. Bill Hunt (who is running again) with allegations that the committee rules had been violated. There was a second vote, which Carona barely won, and even talk of legal battles over the process.

That was supposed to be fixed last night.

Yet Holder rose up against the endorsement process saying it was insanity and a repeat of the past. “Eight alternates sworn in,” Holder shouted at County Chairman Scott Baugh insinuating that votes had been rigged. “Garbage in, garbage out.”

“Mr. chairman, I beg you to not fall into this trap…I have a preference…I want to advocate for no endorsement,” Holder said. “We’re not the Democrat party, we don’t choose…they (party members) can decide on their own.”

That debate came on the heels of a question and answer period where Nelson faced off against Sidhu and clearly came out on top.

Where Nelson was smooth and at ease, almost sounding like a radio show host, Sidhu was tight, almost sounding robotic in his answers, which were often read directly from notes through reading glasses. At one point, after stepping over a good line, he stopped and told the audience it was ok to clap.

“I’m a tough minded advocate for streamlined government,” Sidhu said. “I strongly oppose any new taxes.” “I’m a fighter. I’ll fight for you” said Sidhu as he touted off a series of endorsements from Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and County Supervisors Janet Nguyen and Bill Campbell.

He also had a series of assembly names including Jim Silva, Jeff Miller, Bob Huff and Tom Harman. But Sidhu was nowhere near as aggressive as Nelson, who drew applause for his strong language, especially on public employee unions.

Nelson said he was the only official at the local level to successfully fight off a pension enhancement from his city council seat, saying he had put it all on the line against his fellow council members.

“Public employee unions are hyper-focused on this issue (pensions) because it can’t be taken away,” he said. They’ve picked peaks in the stock market, Nelson said, to get officials to “make lifetime promises.”

“We need people to stand up to them (public employees), who are our friends and say we cannot give you a lifetime gift based on a blip on our economy,” Nelson said to a loud applause.

Nelson touted the endorsement of Republican Congressman Ed Royce, State Senator Mimi Walters, assembly members Curt Hagman and Chris Norby and the Lincoln Club.

The attitude toward public employee unions made a big difference in support.

Nelson was fiercely anti-union in the public sector. He thought public employees shouldn’t get organized because they funnel money into campaigns.

“Public employees don’t need a union,” he said because elected officials are there to address issues.

“The union situation is largely the cause of the pension problem,” Nelson said. “And it wouldn’t exist if unions didn’t have that kind of influence,” he added to a raucous applause.

Sidhu was much more nuanced in his response. “Everybody should have a choice,” he said. “It’s an individual decision.”

After a heated rules fight, Nelson eventually got a vote. And won it easily by a two-thirds margin, 47-8.

Craig Hunter, an Anaheim Deputy Chief who is running for sheriff, also tried hard to get a vote, but wasn’t as lucky.

Hunter requested an endorsement through central committee member Jack Anderson.

Yet as Anderson began it seemed the mood had changed and the tide has turned against any further endorsements. As he made a motion, shouts of “no, no” were coming out of the crowd.

Central Committee Tim Whitacre – who supports Bill Hunt for Sheriff – took to the floor arguing successfully that the party should avoid any endorsements.

“Bill Hunt does not believe we should get in between good Republicans in the fight,” he said.

Quoting Holder earlier in avoiding a supervisors endorsement, Whitacre said “there is no reason to divide our party for the sake of one individual.”

That drew a rebuke from Holder, who rose saying, “I won’t allow my name to be used in this hypocrisy.”

Whitacre then showed an Orange County Register story mentioning that Hunter went after the sheriff union endorsement but just didn’t get it. “Craig Hunter’s actions make him ineligible…he can’t have it both ways,” Whitacre charged.

Ultimately, Hunter’s effort fell away with the motion Anderson offered going down to a 20-19 vote, falling short of a two-third’s requirement.

By the time that the vote got around to the county treasurer/tax collector race, much of the crowd had soured on the whole endorsement debate among Republican challengers.

When asked if he would sign the anti-union pledge, Deputy Treasurer Keith Rodenhuis said he couldn’t because he worked with union on the board of the Orange County Employees Retirement System. That sealed his fate with the crowd.

Huntington Beach City Treasurer Shari Freidenrich — who is endorsed by former county treasurer and current County Supervisor John Moorlach — had her friends extol her virtures. But by then everyone seemed tired.

The 26-21 vote was not the two-thirds majority Freidenrich needed for an endorsement.

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the failed 26-21 vote for the endorsement in the treasurer’s race was in favor of Keith Rodenhuis. The vote was in favor of Shari Freidenrich. We regret the error.

Please contact Norberto Santana Jr. directly at nsantana@voiceofoc.org And add your voice with a letter to the editor.


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