Last weekend something extraordinary happened in Anaheim. More than a thousand California Republicans gathered in a dynamic, exciting convention to celebrate a year of positive news. For the California GOP, this kind of excitement and energy is something that we haven’t seen in a while.
It’s no secret that over the last couple of years the state party conventions have been staid affairs. But things were different last weekend. People couldn’t stop talking about the positive momentum of the party or the dynamic speakers they heard.
The influence of the new leadership of the California Republican Party, including Vice Chair Harmeet Dhillon, of San Francisco, was on full display. In under a year, the new team has hustled to raise money and obliterate a $1 million debt. At the same time, the party was able to bring resources to bear in the stunning victory of Andy Vidak in a July California Senate special election in Fresno — this in a district with a 20 percent Democrat registration advantage.
Top that off with the reopening of the party’s Sacramento office and things are clearly looking up. They are going so well that the Republican National Committee has, for the first time in years, directed resources toward California with the hiring of several field directors who are working full time in the Asian and Hispanic communities.
One person who seemed to be everywhere at once during the weekend was former San Mateo County supervisor Ruben Barrales. He now heads GROW Elect, an organization dedicated to electing Latino Republicans at all levels of office. Barrales’ energy has driven GROW Elect to have had great success in its short history — helping elect more than 30 Republicans to local office in the last 18 months.
The speakers were fantastic, especially Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Gov. Perry brought the message of economic growth and dynamic opportunity to our moribund state.
Here in the Bay Area, it’s easy to forget that vast swaths of our state are mired in recession. Our unemployment rate hovers at a disappointing and depressing 9 percent while some counties it is as high as 26 percent. Gov. Perry has the antidote.
Texas’ pro-growth policies have meant that Texans have jobs while Californians don’t. Texas had a higher overall net addition of jobs than California between 2006 and 2012. California had a net loss of 359,000 jobs while Texas, even with the Great Recession, had a net gain of 1,030,000. Not only that, but the growth in the real Gross Domestic Product of Texas outpaced California during that period.
Not only are more Californians out of work compared to Texans, they’ve grown relatively poorer as well. California would do well to adopt the kind of policies that have led to jobs and growth for Texas, rather the high taxes and regulatory burdens that have led to misery across much of our state.
The excitement and energy so visible in Anaheim is growing here in San Mateo County too. Throughout our county registered Republicans are running for school boards, special districts and city councils. We haven’t seen this many Republicans run for office in a long time. Moreover, the San Mateo County GOP has seen a revival in its donor base, which means we have more resources for candidate recruitment, training, and volunteer deployment.
Engaged Republican tech leaders are coming from San Mateo County as well. The new RNC chief technology officer, Andy Barkett — a 33-year-old former Facebook and Google engineer — is from Redwood City. And, Aaron Ginn of San Mateo, a 25-year-old techie with StumbleUpon, was elected to the state party’s Executive Committee this weekend.
On Sunday, the California Republican Party announced the San Mateo County Republican Party would host the next convention in March at the Burlingame Hyatt.
I could go on and on about the great things happening with California and San Mateo County Republicans. Even so, I know we still have a lot of work to do. Nonetheless, there was a lot of positive energy, excitement and accomplishment to celebrate at the state convention.
John McDowell is a member of the San Mateo County Republican Central Committee and a longtime resident of San Mateo County. He has also worked on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures, and in city government across the United States.