This weekend, I attended a Board meeting of the California Republican Assembly. This spectacle was chaired by their president, John Briscoe. It is the first of three board meetings he has scheduled for the first three months of 2015—technically there are two on the same weekend in March, but I digress. Briscoe can’t find a way to do the business of the Board by either email; teleconference or other modern means so he has the Board make the trek to the other end of California every few weeks to handle their business. 2014 saw at least five such meetings.
The main highlights of the meeting were the endorsement of CRP officers running for reelection (their convention and elections will be held next month) and the farce that is the Nevada County Republican Assembly.
Former California senator and current head of the California Republican Party, Jim Brulte, dropped by the CRA Board meeting and gave a speech about his accomplishments as chairman. He found a way to paint a rosy picture of success by denying the Democrats 2/3 majorities in the Senate and Assembly but left a few small items on the cutting room floor.
Under Brulte’s leadership, no California counties held regular Central Committee elections last year; in fact several counties have abolished the practice altogether. Others might hold elections once every four years but whether this will actually occur in 2016 remains to be seen. This means the current leadership in many counties will remain static; their succession is no longer elected by or accountable to voters but only an internal matter determined by a small insular group. However, these Central Committees still presume to speak for all Republicans in their county without any voter input. It is rule by oligarchy.
Brulte, like many in CRA and other Republican groups, thinks that rules are only for others and not binding on them as well. He claimed that the State Party respected to endorsement decisions of Central Committees and declined endorsement in races where Central Committees had spoken. This was a bald-faced whopper but nobody on CRA’s Board seemed to care.
John Briscoe muffed the endorsement vote for Brulte. He allowed Harmeet Dhillon (CRP Vice-chair) to remain in the room as well as many others not on the Board. Such votes are supposed to be closed decisions. Brulte got two NO votes from the Board. During the endorsement votes, Briscoe never asked for abstentions and neither the current or former parliamentarian—who were both present—corrected him on the oversight. This was some sloppy meeting management by the CRA President.
Next Dhillon was also endorsed. This time she was outside the room but Brulte was present when the vote was held. Later in the day, a regional VP from the central valley was also endorsed. The Sith Lord says this guy was missing from action for most of the last election cycle but he talks a good game.
Next was the Nevada County RA.
Charter Review wanted to discipline the group since the Jeopardy Letter had not had the desired effect. They have been messing with this group for four years but Nevada RA will not follow the rules everyone else has to follow. The vote Charter Review scheduled was to suspend the group and put them in the care of the regional vice-president; in this instance Aaron Park who was not present at the meeting.
This portion of the meeting was again mishandled, this time by Charter Review Chairman, Tim Thiesen, and CRA President, John Briscoe. First, Thiesen failed to make a cogent case as to why Nevada RA was in trouble to start with. Thiesen did not lay out in a concise format what happened or when. We were given disjointed fragments of information. Had this been done via email with an executive summary and a request to vote, I think it would have been a slamdunk; however, done in real time it was a disaster.
To add to the confusion, a representative from Nevada RA appeared to speak in defense of his unit. A motion was made from the malcontent wing of the CRA to allow this man to speak for five minutes. This motion was made after Thiesen’s disjointed presentation was concluded. The motion was approved and the Nevada RA rep was granted five minutes to speak. In addition three speakers from each side were allowed two minutes each to speak. Briscoe made two critical mistakes at this juncture. First he allowed the three speakers on each side their two minutes speaches to occur first and then allowed the Nevada RA speakers five minutes at the end to wrap this up.
The old axiom of he who frames the issue wins the debate proved true here. Thiesen failed to prove why the chapter was in trouble so the Nevada RA guy muddied up the waters even more. President Briscoe did not defend his Charter Review Committee and declined to vote on the matter. This was the last straw. The vote which required a two-thirds vote could not break fifty percent. The malcontents prevailed again. Nevada RA begged to be given until the March Convention and this was granted. I don’t think the extra time will solve the issue.
The malcontent wing as I label them consists mainly of Tom Hudson, all members present from the Sacramento RA and San Joaquin president Jim Shoemaker. They view their function in the group to oppose the current leadership just to be a pain in their butts. I think their real beef is not with President Briscoe but any member with the last name of Park. Since the Park brothers support Briscoe, they must oppose him. Simple and childish but it seems to be the only explanation.
Another thing I found out about the event was that several in attendance did not pay for lunch but helped themselves anyway. While the rest of us had to shell out thirty bucks; these guy thought they could just freeload. Thiesen was in charge of the event and they took roll at the door so how did this occur? Tim clearly does not run a tight ship. I was disappointed but not surprised. Having been stuck with the bill before, I am sensitive to this particular form of theft. In my case however, Denny’s would not give out individual bills and people were left on the honor system. Instead of paying some literally left us with the bill. Sith Lord and I split the $100 tab that nobody else paid.
The last item that will certainly be back with a vengeance is the Convention committee assignments made by Briscoe. Briscoe said his criterion was that nobody from last time would be a chairman again this year and one person per committee. Tom Hudson about had an aneurism when he found out his assignment. Under previous CRA Presidents he typically was on the three or four most powerful committees and usually served as chair or vice-chair, but this time he was just “Joe Member” on one committee. He had a tantrum from the floor but was shutdown by Briscoe. Sith Lord says that following the meeting Hudson vowed to oppose every item coming from the Bylaws Committee. I think he will oppose just about everything at the convention from every committee.
Hudson is setting himself up as the alternative to Briscoe but the real question is will he run a slate at the convention to try to wrest control of the CRA from the current leadership?