GOP Live Blog: We’re From the Press, Here to Help


sadelephantcropThis update just in: Sparing no sacrifice to bring the full story of the Republican state convention to Calbuzzers everywhere, we bailed from the glamorous P.J. Hackenflack dinner (more to come on that in days ahead) before all the drunks had left amid ongoing good fellowship to check out the parties hosted by the GOP rivals for governor.

At Neel Kashkari’s bash, a terrific band called Decades performed a 70s-Oughts-cover soundtrack for a crowd of several hundred folks more interested in gossiping about congressional races than in dancing. The candidate himself was ebullient, brandishing a long neck Bud as he moved through the hotel ballroom getting some love from fan boys and girls.

“I have nothing to lose,” he told us with a big smile, offering his after-hours assessment of his long-shot bid for governor. “I have nothing to fear.”

alonzocropIn another ballroom a few hundred feet away, opponent Tim Donnelly’s party seemed shaped by fear, as the candidate warned his guests about tyranny abroad and the communist menace in California.

In Cuba and Venezuela she escaped communists, Donnelly said, introducing his supporter and star attraction, the Cuban-born singer and actress Maria Conchita Alonso, who was raised in Venezuela. “”Now she is afraid the communists have come here.”

Rocking a long black dress with a serious thigh split and sporting four-inch heels, Ms. Conchita Alonso delivered a 10-minute incoherent rant – “I hate politics but when I get into politics I can’t stop” – and then sang…something…in a raspy voice before Donnelly put his arm around her and warned his supporters again of government tyrants out to control everything and the need to “take back our freedom.” From who was not clear.

Earlier: To our disappointment, no boffo brawls over God, guns or gays, of the type that has so entertained Calbuzz at past California Republican Party conventions, have yet erupted this weekend.

And yet: we’ve witnessed more than enough diverting events and images to applaud the success of our National Affairs Desk in scoring a $179 room (including complimentary, great view of the Bay) in which we’ve installed our Very Foreign Political Bureau and Hospitality Suite at the Burlingame Hyatt Hotel (we passed on the en suite Iced Prawns, at $5 apiece, minimum of 10, however). Let’s roll that tape:

Who’s strapped for the occasion? With Inland Empire Assembly member Tim Donnelly making way-out-there Second Amendment enthusiasm a centerpiece of his campaign for the nomination for governor – “Patriot Not Politician,” his signs say – we felt it necessary to question him and his chief rival about whether they were packing at the convention.

“Ha, ha,” replied Donnelly, who wore a black sateen team jacket with a gold Assembly logo, as he was surrounded by admirers and reporters in the lobby, when we asked.

kashkaridonnellyDoes that mean yes or no, we followed up, in textbook style.

“You have my answer,” the wannabe governor said, which we interpreted as not exactly a categorical denial.

Opponent Neel Kashkari, who boasts of his ownership of several guns in an effort to checkmate Donnelly on the NRA issue, was more direct.

“No, I am not armed,” he told us, which reassured us as we sat chatting with him in the coffee shop.

Go die, mo fo: GOP Chairman Jim Brulte, an insider’s insider who loves to gossip and BS with reporters off the record, looked positively pained to have to speak on the record with a press gaggle that invaded his suite as the convention began.

“The chairman wanted to get together with you…” Communications Director Mark Standriff said, signalling the floor was open to reporters, who had plopped down on cushy couches in the chairman’s comfy sitting room.

“Strike that,” Brulte interrupted, perhaps in jest. “My staff wanted me to get together with you.”

brulteFor half than an hour or more he then fended off questions about a) whether the GOP has the wherewithal to win even a single statewide office (doesn’t sound like it); b) about what the party is doing to entice minorities into its tent (recruiting more candidates in minority neighborhoods); c) why there isn’t a Republican running in every legislative and congressional district in the state (it’s not worth the money).

Wrapping up the lively session, one decrepit Calbuzzer asked how Brulte aimed to defy demographics by winning support from Latinos, who’ve stayed away in droves from the GOP ever since ex-Governor Pete Wilson energetically sponsored Prop. 187 in his win-the-battle lose-the-war re-election campaign twenty years ago.

“I don’t want answer your specific question,” Brulte began, wriggling in a most reasonable tone.

“Yeah, why would you start now,” snarked the Calbuzz correspondent, who apropos of nothing has missed several conventions while working deep undercover to investigate every disagreeable aspect of the health care system.

“This was easier when you were on your deathbed,” Brulte riposted, in as pleasant a tone as such a sentiment could be delivered.

Sic semper tyrannis.

012513_Varney_StandriffWe’re with the press, where’s the food. Standriff, who’s always saintly in his dealings with the press, went above and beyond to accommodate the Fourth and Fifth Estates this time with an uncommonly friendly crew of staffers and press room volunteers, in addition to other frills.

For starters, the convention schedule included a menu to be made available to more or less working members of the media (all weird capitalization theirs):

Meals will be provided for working press only:

-Friday afternoon – Hearty Soup, Cheese and Cracker Tray, Fresh Vegetable Tray

 -Saturday morning – Bagels with assorted Cream Cheese, Sliced Breakfast Bread, Assorted Fruit Tray

– Saturday lunch – Ham, Turkey, Roast Beef and Vegetarian Sandwiches, Potato Salad, Cole Slaw, Cookies and Energy Bars

– Saturday dinner – Dim Sum, Chicken Spring Rolls, Seared Ahi Tuna with Nori and Wasabi

-Sunday morning – Bagels with assorted Cream Cheese, Granola

-Coffee station with assorted juices and sodas.

We had no complaints, except for all the unnecessary vegetables and the sad lack of lox and capers at breakfast.

New boss, just like the old boss. One after another, convention speakers keep lauding the crucial importance of  “grassroots” volunteers, issues and organization; we note, however, that the “Gold Sponsors” of the opening night’s big dinner bore resemblance to a roll call of influential corporations and special interests in Sacramento, including the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the California Hospital Association, PG&E, Farmers Insurance and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Not much enthusiasm from the crowd when SEIU 1000’s Silver Sponsorship was announced.

No sign of the California Teachers Association yet, however.

Reince PriebusThe real Mr. Chairman. Perhaps because our expectations were so low, we found Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus to be a pretty solid speechifier, who played against type in his nuts and bolts talk to 1,000 delegates by using Actual Facts instead of the usual heaps of hogwash rhetoric uttered by Beltway colonialists.

While Priebus will never be confused as an orator with Jesse Jackson, his pitch on behalf of compressing and moving the presidential primary calendar, limiting the number of debates and mastering the Obama-style use of data bases to help the party’s 2016 candidate made a lot of sense politically, even if such changes will undercut the fun factor for campaign reporters.

In trumpeting his practical strategy, Priebus also aimed a shot at Tea Party alleged insurgents, who doubtless will caterwaul that his plan is a treacherous scheme to undercut the efforts of true patriots everywhere.

“It’s not an establishment takeover,” he said. “Not everything is a conspiracy.”

For the record, while Mr. Chairman spoke, Calbuzz conducted a trademark wide-ranging investigation, which included at least five minutes on Google, to determine exactly how weird his name is, an undertaking that turns out to have been previously completed by Slate.

The Social Security Administration’s death index, which records U.S. deaths back to 1962, includes just four people named Priebus. To put that into perspective, 880,661 Smiths and 483,864 Joneses have passed on during the same period. In addition, the index lists 38,739 Reids, 31,591 Steeles, 15,692 McConnells, 518 Pelosis, and 294 Boehners. (Eight of the Boehners were named John.) There is only one Obama.

Reince is a very rare first name, although a few immigrants from Flemish Belgium have brought Reince to the United States as a last name. Forty-one people with the last name Reince have died in the United States since 1962. When he passes on, Chairman Priebus could become the only person with the first name Reince in the death index.

You could look it up.

faulk 9d2da3bf3f55d810259ce77793719ec6That’s Faulconer, not Faulkner, you moron.  The convention’s big hero is Kevin Faulconer, the recently elected mayor of San Diego, who overcame a Democratic edge in registration to win the city’s top political gig after grab-and-grope ex-mayor Bob Filner was forced to leave office in disgrace.

At every caucus, meal and conversation of more than one person, Faulconer’s upset victory is being hailed as the exemplar of Brulte’s long game strategy of electing Republicans to local non-partisan offices as a means of building a bench of credible candidates and grooming future statewide players.

“What we did in San Diego, we can do up and down the state,” Faulkner said told Friday, boasting of thwarting the opposition of public employee unions.

SEIU take heed.

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There are 3 comments for this post

  1. avatar Noozeyeguy says:

    The “non-partisan” nature of San Diego’s mayor has long been of a “wink, wink” nature; having grown up and attended college there, the party affiliation of the candidates was always clear. So Faulconer’s victory was less about being a “stealth” Republican and more about being the type of Republican who has always fared well in San Diego politics, i.e., a moderate. Brulte is correct in that a roadmap to electoral parity (if not success) has been laid out; it merely requires the California GOP to move left (as the astute Calbuzzers have noted ad nauseum).

  2. avatar mezzicun says:

    Why Donnelly is using an actress confusing her home country’s politics for California’s is also not clear.

  3. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    I think it’s smart politics to feature a Latino supporter when the candidate is accused of being anti-Latino. That’s what Donnelly is doing. Besides, Conchita is pretty spirited gal who could help any campaign with her upbeat message.

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