Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
Carly Fiorina is gearing up to run for president. National Journal reports she already has begun hiring staff.
Fiorina has run for office only once, as the Republican challenger to Sen. Barbara Boxer of California in 2010 – and she lost. Still, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO won prime attention by running and losing. She’s on “Meet the Press” all the time. She’s still rich and still good-looking. (In 2010, Fiorina and husband Frank claimed a combined net worth of $30 million to $120 million.) Insiders think she’s probably running for vice president; if Hillary Clinton is the Dems’ nominee, the GOP nominee likely will be looking for a female running mate. Or maybe “she’s running for enhanced fame, image and possibly the Cabinet,” opined GOP consultant Kevin Spillane. “There’s really no downside with her running.”
So maybe it isn’t totally crazy that Fiorina is running for president, even if she’s never won an election. But it is totally crazy that Fiorina is running for the White House when, according to federal election reports, her 2010 campaign still owes $486,418 to creditors. Who wants a deadbeat for president?
Like the evil George Wickham in “Pride and Prejudice,” Fiorina skipped California owing buckets of cash to her onetime pals. She owes $60,000 to former campaign manager Marty Wilson, who now works for the California Chamber of Commerce, and another $20,000 to his former communications firm. She shorted campaign counsel Ben Ginsberg, formerly of Patton Boggs, to the tune of $44,000. She owes $3,750 to a former press secretary, $5,000 to another communications aide and $7,500 to her erstwhile political director. She stiffed political consultant Joe Shumate, who died in 2010, to the tune of $30,000. (Yes, she stiffed a stiff – even though she lauded Shumate as a “trusted adviser and friend” upon his death.)
Shumate put “his heart and soul into this campaign, and I would hope that Carly Fiorina would pay his widow the money that was owed him at the time of his death,” fellow creditor and GOP strategist John Allan Peschong told me.
When HP fired Fiorina, she walked away with a $21 million golden handshake. But when Fiorina lost the Senate race, some of her employees didn’t get a handshake. They got a finger.
In Fiorina’s defense, Wilson offered that it’s hard to raise money when so many Republicans already gave her the maximum donation. “The only effective way she could discharge that debt would be for her to write a personal check,” Wilson added. Then again, she can afford it.
I tried to reach Fiorina through a contact person, who said she had to go through another contact person, and I never heard back from anyone. Thus, I never got an explanation as to why, according to her campaign report, Fiorina paid back to herself $1 million of the $6.8 million she had lent her campaign on the day before the election. (After the election, win or lose, a candidate cannot get back most loan money.) If Fiorina had not repaid herself that $1 mil, her campaign coffers would have had enough money to discharge all of the campaign’s debts.
Maybe Fiorina felt that her consultants had let her down. Maybe Fiorina wishes that she hadn’t spent $2 million on ads after the RealClearPolitics poll average showed her a point behind Boxer in October. (In November, she lost by 10 points.) Maybe Fiorina blames the people below her for depriving her of a victory she believes should have been hers. That’s the best explanation I can muster for a well-heeled candidate’s failure to settle campaign accounts – and it doesn’t mitigate the offense.
“There was an expectation that she wasn’t going to run for office (again), so there wasn’t much we could do about it,” Wilson told me. He says he suggested to Fiorina that she pay creditors something “like 40 cents on the dollar.” Again, no word from Fiorina, but her failure to settle with her creditors these four years speaks volumes.
Fiorina won’t be the last politician to leave a trail of debt. Still, it takes a certain kind of brass to not pay off your political operatives and then set up shop to run for the highest office in the land. Wilson isn’t sure who will want to work for Fiorina, but he does offer a suggestion for Fiorina 2.0: Ask for the money upfront.
Debra J. Saunders is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, 901 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103. Send email to email@example.com.
Two years ago, Jim Brulte chastised his party for losing seats to laziness.
“There were three Assembly seats that were lost because we got lazy,” Brulte said shortly after taking the helm as chairman of the California Republican Party in March 2013. “Leaders lead by example, and we have to be in the precincts working, standing shoulder to shoulder with our volunteers.”
Now that’s he reclaimed those legislative seats lost to laziness, Brulte is asking state party delegates to reelect him to a second two-year term as leader of the state’s rebuilding minority party.
“We can build upon our successes this year,” Brulte wrote to party delegates, according to a letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “Working together we showed what our party could achieve. We need to build upon that success … because our state, our counties and our cities are too important to leave to those who do not share our philosophy.”
The 2014 election marked the first time in 20 years Republicans defeated a Democratic incumbent. The state party prevented a Democratic supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature as it made inroads with solidly Democratic regions of the state. For years, Republicans have been without any state or federal elected officials in the Bay Area. That changed in November with Catharine Baker’s win in the 16th Assembly District.
CA Republican Party Vice Chair Harmeet Dhillon, who also announced plans to seek another term on the board of directors, said Monday she was “relieved” that Brulte was interested in keeping the job.
“He has turned this party around, and it has been a privilege to be one of the many people on his team,” Dhillon wrote on her Facebook page. “We worked hard and applied a disciplined focus to achieve the goals we accomplished last month. But California needs more. We need a vibrant two-party system and a marketplace of ideas. We need lower taxes, less regulation, innovation, job growth, a respect for life and a respect for the rule of law, starting with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We need freedom from government. We are far from these goals.”
A first-generation immigrant, Dhillon has served as one of the party’s main advocates in its effort to court non-traditional GOP voters. She’ll finally have some help with the recent election of four Asian-American Republican women to state and local offices in Orange County.
When Brulte and Dhillon took over the helm, the state party was deep in debt. Now, as of Dec. 1, according to state campaign finance disclosure reports, the California Republican Party has $1.48 million in cash on hand. This year, state Republicans have raised $19.2 million — more than double the amount in 2012.
In addition to stronger finances, the party has made a serious effort to broaden its appeal. State delegates, who have traditionally felt excluded from the party, described this year’s spring convention as a “blockbuster” step forward in terms of inclusiveness. Once relegated to the margins, the California Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian Republicans, hosted a hospitality suite that was packed the entire night. Other changes included an ASL interpreter on hand for deaf and hard-of-hearing delegates.
“We’re pushing the party outside of its comfort zone,” Brulte said of the shift in tone. “And we’re already seeing the benefits.”
But there’s still work to be done, especially in the area of voter registration. For yet another year, Republicans saw their voter registration numbers dwindle to just 28.2 percent. Republicans have watched their share of the electorate consistently decline from 35.6 percent in 1998, according to Capitol Weekly.
With the party’s two top leaders seeking reelection, state Republicans hope to enjoy a low-key spring convention and avoid the negative headlines that plagued its most recent gathering in Los Angeles. Coverage of the party’s September convention focused on internal emails by party leaders that were leaked to the press.
Those emails included Brulte’s blunt criticism of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the GOP nominee for state controller who failed to endorse Neel Kashkari’s campaign for governor. Swearengin lost anyway to Democrat Betty Yee, 54 percent to 46 percent.
Brulte, a former minority leader in both the California State Senate and Assembly, was elected chairman of the California Republican Party with 90 percent of the vote in 2013. But don’t expect either Brulte or Dhillon to rest on their laurels.
“In the coming days and weeks I will be reaching out to state party delegates and volunteer groups, seeking their support in the quest to continue this service,” Dhillon said.
The Spring 2015 Organizing Convention will be held from Feb. 27 to March 1 in Sacramento.
Analysts expected it, but it hurt all the same. The gains in the California Legislature were welcome. But in state-level races, California Republicans did not enjoy the same tidal-wave election results as their fellow party faithful across the country.
For decades at the national level, moderate, centrist and liberal Republicans have urged the GOP to pivot leftward on social issues in order to broaden the size of the party’s base. But in California, that strategy has long been baked into the cake of the political establishment’s culture — and it hasn’t turned back the Democratic tide.
That’s why California Republicans have begun to look even more closely at social issues amid this year’s disappointing — but not crushing — elections. To begin with, the limits of liberalizing have become apparent even among Democrats.
Nationwide, Democrats were widely judged to have badly miscalculated that identity politics would suffice to drive voter enthusiasm and win close contests. Party elites and opinion-makers have begun to argue that Democrats must focus on an economic message over a culture one.
For California Republicans, two takeaways have emerged. First, a further turn to the left on social issues may not translate into more votes. Second, a tilt back to the right probably won’t do much either.
Importantly, while the substance of identity politics failed Democrats, the symbolism also foundered. Wendy Davis’s strongly gendered campaign for Texas governor was a painful flop even by the low standards of this year’s elections. She lost to Republican Greg Abbott, 59-39. That was even worse than Republican Neel Kashkari’s 59-41 loss to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown here in California.
A Washington Post post-mortem was headlined, “Wendy Davis’ campaign was even worse than you thought.” It reported on an internal campaign memo which warned way back in January of a “lurch to the left. … There is not a model where a candidate who appears this liberal and culturally out of touch gets elected statewide anywhere in the south — much less in Texas.”
In one notable instance, a California Republican whose identity implicated social issues lost — but not for that reason. After a high-profile and costly race, Carl DeMaio had to concede defeat to incumbent Rep. Scott Peters in their fight for the state’s 52 Congressional District.
As U-T San Diego reported, “DeMaio positioned himself as a ‘new generation Republican,’ potentially breaking new ground as a gay Republican in Congress. Peters ran on his bipartisan record and had substantial support from the business community.”
Two years ago, DeMaio, a former San Diego councilman who helped push pension reform, lost another close election for mayor to Democrat Bob Filner, who later was forced to resign due to personal scandals.
Although it has never been easy to unseat an incumbent in a state where the dominant party has a strong advantage, DeMaio’s experience paralleled that of a second gay Republican candidate. Richard Tisei, running for the 6th District in Massachusetts, lost out to Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who had defeated incumbent Democrat Rep. John Tierney during the district’s primary race.
In Tisei’s case as well as DeMaio’s, voters in a deep-blue state didn’t jump at the chance to vote for a credible, competent and openly gay Republican.
But in DeMaio’s case, importantly, the margin of defeat was very narrow, indicating that few Republican voters were deterred by the political implications of DeMaio’s sexual orientiation.
Although allegations of sexual misconduct by DeMaio toward staffers did cloud the campaign waters in the home stretch, Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, told the Atlantic magazine that he didn’t believe anti-gay attitudes caused DeMaio to fall short.
At the same time, at least one social issue — the legal status of marijuana — continued its movement toward the mainstream in a way that Republicans could capitalize on.
In recent remarks before members of the press, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said his view from the Golden State counseled a liberalized, and pro-liberty, attitude toward pot. For more than two decades representing coastal Orange County, one of America’s most conservative areas, he just won-reelection, 64-36.
“The members of the Republican Party just should become more practical if nothing else,” he said. “The American people are shifting on this issue.” He warned the change would “make a difference in the election of some very close races.”
This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com.
2014 was a solid year for California Republicans. In the state Senate, the GOP prevented Democrats from regaining a two-thirds supermajority.
And in the Assembly, Republicans defeated three Democratic incumbents, which also reversed a Democratic supermajority.
“We unseated sitting Democrats for the first time in 20 years because Californians want positive change and because we had great, hard-working candidates on the ballot this year, candidates who are connected with their communities and know the challenges facing people in their districts,” newly elected Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen told CalWatchdog.com. “They were more diverse than ever – in gender, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic upbringing and background.”
Is the GOP changing? In the Assembly, women make up a greater share of the Republican caucus than the Democratic caucus. Although Democrats hold nearly a two-thirds majority in the lower house, there are nearly as many Republican women (seven) as there are Democratic women (currently 10; or 11 if Patty Lopez defeats Raul Bocanegra in AD 39 in a tight race — Lopez currently leads by seven votes; both are Democrats).
The Friday following the election, Olsen introduced to the Sacramento press the three most talked about new members of her caucus — each of whom has a major achievement by virtue of her election. Catharine Baker is the first Republican to win a Bay Area legislative seat in years. Ling-Ling Chang is the first Taiwanese-American Republican woman to join the Assembly. And Young Kim is the first Korean-American Republican elected to the lower house.
For the next two years, you can expect Kim to be an almost daily fixture in the Korean-language newspapers, where she’ll be talking about lowering taxes and improving California’s business climate.
“Now that we’ve broken the Democrats’ supermajority in both houses, taxpayers can sleep a little better at night knowing that Proposition 13 is safe, at least for the next two years,” Kim told CalWatchdog.com, referencing the 1978 tax-limitation initiative.
She says she’ll focus on creating a business-friendly environment to help spur job creation in California as well as keeping our communities safe by putting a focus on public safety.
If there’s one freshman Republican on the fast-track to leadership, it’s Chang. She’s a smart, articulate assemblywoman-elect with impressive fundraising at a time when Republicans are serious about re-branding the party.
It’d be a no-brainer for Chang to land a spot on the Assembly Health Committee, one of the most coveted assignments in the lower house. An expert on public health, Chang has experience in both the non-profit and for-profit side of health care. She’s worked in the corporate sector training physicians and medical staff at various hospitals across Southern California.
With a spot on a juice committee, Chang would boost her already robust fundraising, which aided GOP targets in November. In the final two months of the campaign, Chang contributed more than $60,000 to party committees and legislative targets, including colleagues Kim, David Hadley, Tom Lackey, Marc Steinorth, Catharine Baker and Eric Linder.
When CalWatchdog.com asked her about the incoming GOP class, she quickly focused the spotlight on her colleagues. One colleague, who is getting buzz as an expert in technology, is Jay Obernolte, a fellow Southern California Republican freshman.
“Jay is one of the smartest, most technologically savvy individuals I know,” Chang told us when we asked about the new freshmen class. “His experience as a software and video game developer and business owner will bring a cutting edge perspective for Republicans to the issues facing California.”
Obernolte, the mayor of Big Bear Lake, founded FarSight Studios, a successful video game company that makes “family videogames for the PlayStation3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Apple iPhone, and the PC.” For a caucus looking to make inroads with Silicon Valley, who better than a video-gaming geek who graduated from UCLA and CalTech?
Republicans also benefit from Baker’s representation of the Bay Area. For years, Republicans have been without any state or federal elected officials in the region. An attorney from Pleasanton, Baker becomes the most prominent Republican official for hundreds of miles in the Bay Area.
In practical terms, that’s a very big deal. It means she’ll be sending out field representatives to PTA meetings, distributing certificates at chamber breakfasts and fielding constituent calls to help with the DMV– all the boring things that win elections.
“Voters sent a message on Election Day that the culture of corruption and one-party rule in the Legislature is unacceptable and not healthy for our state,” Olsen said.
She added, “Now, our Assembly Republican Caucus will take the responsibility voters have given us and work hard together to put California on a better path for ALL Californians in each and every neighborhood.”
This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com