By all accounts, the California Republican Party State Convention this past weekend was a successful one – Republicans from throughout California packed into the Sacramento Hyatt to do their part in setting the direction of a party that was thrust into a rebuilding mode after getting trounced in the November elections. This past weekend was a stark contrast from the September convention in Anaheim – one of the most uneventful and under-attended conventions in a long while according to a number of party veterans.
Most visible throughout the weekend was the conservative wing of the party, out in full force to voice their disapproval of those legislators who broke their anti-tax pledges to join Democrats in passing a budget laden with tax increases. Attendees at the convention’s general session overwhelmingly voted to discipline those who broke ranks, denying them any party funding in the 2010 election cycle. Whisper campaigns spread about possible primary challengers for those who would be up for reelection.
A number of candidates made a point of keeping a high profile throughout the weekend, displaying signage and making appearances while having supporters deployed throughout the hotel; the most visible among them were Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman (seeking the office of Governor), Senator Jeff Denham (Lt. Governor), Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (US Senate) and Senator George Runner (Board of Equalization). Other rumored candidates kept a lower profile but made their presence known; Carly Fiorina, contemplating a run for US Senate, wowed crowds with her preparedness and eloquence, while Americans for Prosperity CA Chairman Peter Foy made the rounds for his probable run for Governor, billing himself as a true conservative in a field of moderates.
Here are some of the winners from this past weekend:
- Poizner and Whitman – The profile maintained by the two Silicon Valley Billionaires clearly made it look like a two-horse race for Governor on the GOP side. Poizner impressed with appearances throughout the weekend, touting his credentials and experience at several organizational meetings throughout the weekend; Whitman brought out vocal supporter Mitt Romney for a Meet & Greet and made the rounds as well. Both lambasted the Governor and Legislature over the tax increases in the recently passed budget.
- Right-wingers – It might have been a point to argue in recent years, but after the trouncing the GOP took in November and the internal disgust over the tax increases passed in the state budget, there’s a clear party majority that buys the argument about a deteriorating GOP brand. Conservatives came out in full force throughout the weekend, making their presence known at every level.
- The youth movement – Rebuilding support for the GOP among the 18-30 crowd is a clear concern with many throughout the party, and it was clear this weekend as nearly every candidate and party official made a talking point out of youth outreach. Several high profile candidates showed up to address the meetings of the College Republicans and Young Republicans, with attendance at the College Republican gathering literally flowing out of the doors.
College Republicans Candidate for Chairman Michael Antonopoulous, who contributed to Fox&Hounds last year, hosted what most agree was the most popular hospitality suite of the weekend, packed wall to wall throughout the night; several GOP electeds and party officials dropped by to vocalize their support of his plan to expand youth outreach throughout California.
- Sign Vendors – The most signage I’ve seen at a GOP convention in a while, despite the fact that the major party offices of Chairman and Vice-Chairman were uncontested.
I’ll hold off on a list of losers for now, although I’d be happy to take nominations on that front.