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Alice Khosravy: Signs of life emerge in California GOP

Posted: March 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Each year people across the country wait for Groundhog Day and hope that spring will come early.

Of course, one day doesn’t really determine the weather but it’s a tradition that gives many a sense of hope that warmer days are just around the corner.

This was the mood at the California Republican Party Convention last weekend. There was a sense of nervous optimism among the delegates and volunteers.

People openly asked questions such as, "Could this be the year that we finally begin to get our act together as a party?" and "Do you think we are finally ready to pull together?"

These were common among the volunteers as they discussed the need to break the stronghold consultants held on the party.

In the new delegate training class, we learned that more than half the delegates were brand new. I didn’t realize the significance of the statistic until I began watching the delegates and party leaders interact over the weekend.

It was clear that the influence of the "old guard" was waning as they slipped into the shadows of irrelevance.

Saturday brought forth the first test of my theory as several new, young candidates were elected regional VPs. Our regional vice chairman seat was not in the election rotation, which allowed for deeper observation.

Five regional vice chairman seats (out of eight) were up for election. The winners there were: Northwest — Elissa Wadleigh; North — Arnie Zeiderman; Bay Area — Kevin Krick; Central Coast — Greg Gandrud, and Central Valley — Marcelino Valdez Jr.

For those who lost there was genuine heartbreak, but the sense of urgency to rejuvenate the party outweighed the temporary setbacks for most of the candidates.

In the afternoon there was an obvious sense of apprehension as we moved one step closer to election of a new chairman, vice chairman, secretary, and treasurer.

The party’s treasurer, Mike Osborn, and secretary, Patricia Welch, were elected without opposition. The chairman position seemed a foregone conclusion, but Jim Brulte campaigned like a champion.

He also made sure he brought in the big gun, Congressman Tom McClintock, to nominate him. McClintock rocked the crowd in a way that only he can as he challenged the delegates to step out of the comfort zone and create a better state party.

So from where, you might ask, was the nervous energy being emitted? It was the position of vice chairman.

There is no denying or hiding the fact that there were some truly nasty comments sent the way of attorney Harmeet Dhillon by old guard leaders. So the question of the weekend was, would the delegates defy the outdated leaders and elect her as the first woman vice chairman of the California Republican Party?

When the votes were counted, both races were a blowout with Brulte and Dhillon each winning by a landslide. The delegates cheered in unison but not just because Brulte and Dhillon had won.

They cheered because they had worked together to bring a new dawn to a party that many have left for dead.

On the plane ride home, the feeling of optimism was tempered by the vast amount of work that lies ahead for the state and for our county.

One election, or convention, will not repair the Republican brand in California, but good leadership combined with empowered volunteers creates momentum.

Mometum is not a word that has been used to describe the California GOP for a very long time.

Anecdotally, the first signs of spring are already appearing. Ventura County, for example, is re-organizing its dormant local chapter of the California Republican Assembly that will be governed by countywide volunteers for the first time in over a decade.

Notice of the chapter’s re-organization made statewide news as record numbers of attendees are expected to gather at the Junkyard on March 23.

Our own local assemblyman, Scott Wilk, will be there with several other dignitaries to cheer on the volunteers.

Is it springtime for Republicans in California? I would have to say not yet, but there are strong signals the spring thaw has begun as a new generation of leaders and volunteers emerges.

Don’t count this state party out too soon. The party has always held the talent to fight its way to relevancy, and now it seems to have the will too.

Alice Khosravy is a resident of the Santa Clarita Valley. "Right Here, Right Now" runs Fridays in The Signal.


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