California Conservatives Got No Horse for Governor


But At Least Meg Whitman’s Got One in Hand *

Consider the problems facing conservative California Republicans. We’re not talking about the low-tax, small government, laissez-faire fiscal folks. We’re talking about the unflinching, pro-life, pro-gun, anti-gay-marriage conservatives who have, for decades, served as keepers of the GOP flame.

These are the true-believers who attend party conventions, knock on doors and lick stamps for mailings and who vote in every Republican primary. There are just enough of them to make sure that there’s almost always one of their own representing their party in top-of-the-ticket general elections.

They’ve given us George Deukmejian, Dan Lungren, Bruce Herschensohn and Bill Simon for example. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger were exceptions to the rule. Wilson was drafted by desperate GOP grandees to run in the wide-open governor’s race in 1990. Schwarzenegger slipped by in the 2003 recall election; he likely could never have won a Republican primary.

But with Meg Whitman, the former EBay CEO, and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a former Silicon Valley executive, as the leading GOP contenders, and with moderate former San Jose Congressman. Tom Campbell considering a run, the genuine, red-blooded, God-fearing, movement conservatives have no candidate for governor to call their own this time out.

Whitman and Poizner (and Campbell, too) are pro-choice, for example, and Whitman even told our friend Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle she believes that since abortion is legal, “it has to be made available to women of all means.” That’s public funding, campers. Like Poizner, she supports parental consent for teenage girls, and opposes so-called “partial-birth abortion.” Both also support embryonic stem cell research – another taboo among uncompromising abortion foes.

“They’re both moderates,” says Mike Spence, president of the California Republican Assembly. But neither of them would be as bad as Schwarzenegger, he adds. “We want to see conservative things put into government. If a moderate does conservative things, that’s okay.”

At least, he says, they both oppose Proposition 1A, a key part of Schwarzenegger’s budget-bail-out package.

“Conservatives feel used and abused by Arnold Schwarzenegger,” explains Jon Fleischman, the indefatigable editor of the conservative blog Flash Report. Although Poizner has something of an advantage among conservatives – he’s a known entity and is working hard to build ties to the right wing of the party – the office he holds “is one statewide office most conservatives would say shouldn’t even exist” since its chief responsibility is to regulate an industry.

Fleischman wonders if either Poizner or Whitman, or both, will use their millions to become widely known across the state among the ideologues who vote in low-turn-out elections by airing television ads opposing Prop. 1A. That kind of strategic move could burnish their credentials among the movement conservatives – especially since it would pit them against Schwarzenegger.

In a very personal way, the Terminator, it seems, has turned a lot of arch-conservatives into pragmatists: they may just be happy to have a candidate who would oppose tax increases, even if they have to concede the social issues that have long defined their movement.

There’s some chatter about Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy, who has some millions of his own, filling the void. But it’s not clear he could compete at the megabucks level at which Whitman and Poizner are prepared to play.

“Will most conservatives feel like hey have a conservative candidate in the race for governor? I don’t know,” Fleischman says. “But there’s a big opening for a well-funded conservative.”

* Thanks to John Wildermuth of the SF Chronicle for finding out the horse on the cover of Fortune was a rental prop named Brandy

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There are 9 comments for this post

  1. avatar Bill Bradley says:

    They’re all conservatives. You should hear their speeches. Unless we really believe that being pro-choice is the only thing that makes you a moderate.

  2. avatar James Kyriaco Jr says:

    I have no doubt that the Republican Party in California will find a candidate sufficiently weird enough to placate its base. There must be somebody in Orange County they can talk into running.

  3. avatar Chris Bertelli says:

    Since you don’t have a “contact us” link (at least not one I could find) I just wanted to compliment you on the blog. I look forward to more posts.

  4. avatar Reilleyfam says:

    Conservatives are nearly extinct. However many core Republican principles are valid and will hold over time – to the chagrin of many who lump the timeless commonsense republicans in with the nuts of the past 30 years. Those “small govt, low taxes, laizez-faire fiscal folks” are that will soon be left of the GOP. That as it should be – to try to impose christianity on the masses like some WASP taliban was bound to backfire. Good fiscal, good nat’l defense and good local police are the essentials. The new GOP will much more libertarian….or they will be extinct.

  5. avatar Roberts and Trounstine says:

    Thanks Chris. Our blogmail address at the top of the page is calbuzzer@gmail.com

  6. avatar Scott Sabatini says:

    Exceptionally strong, though I wonder if part of the reason for the lack of true red, white and blue red meat conservative is the moderate arm of the GOP nationwide is pretty fed up being held hostage by the Dobsonites, even though he’s long gone from Pomona to Colorado.
    By the way, I bet you both a $4 Momo’s martini that Feinstein will run.

  7. avatar Roberts and Trounstine says:

    Scott — We accept your bet.

  8. avatar Keith Butler says:

    Why is it that if someone has successfully managed a business enterprise, they qualify to enter politics? I’ve yet to see any data that supports this notion. Certainly, it takes talent and hard work to succeed in business, but what you manage, and how you manage there versus in government seems very different. A CEO has greater control over and more direct ability to affect change than a government official.

  9. avatar Nice says:

    There must be somebody in Orange County they can talk into Horse running

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