Matt Shupe and Ron Nehring | Featured Contributors
A referral from a trusted source is the gold standard in marketing. It’s the basis of websites like Yelp, Trip Advisor and the entire “influencer” industry.
We often turn to friends for recommendations on what restaurant to take a date, the best hotel to stay at in a new city, the latest fashion trends or what realtor to hire.
The same dynamic exists in politics.
When voters are mailed their ballots and confronted with a long list of candidates, they often turn to their local and state parties for guidance.
There is an expectation from voters and a duty for the parties to vet candidates. These endorsements should be coveted, competed for and earned by candidates so that they have meaning and value to the voters.
As an institution, we should put great a deal of seriousness into the people we lend our name and credibility to.
Unfortunately, the California Republican Party adopted a bylaw 12 years ago that automatically endorses any Republican running in a partisan race who is not opposed by another Republican. Sight unseen. No vetting, no interview, no background check, not even a phone call.
This has led to some very embarrassing endorsements.
We the authors of this commentary, a former CAGOP chairman and a Contra Costa County Republican Party chairman, have submitted a bylaw proposal to remove this reputation-damaging mechanism at this weekend’s California Republican Party convention taking place in Anaheim.
While we are writing this, Politico’s California editor Chris Cadelago Tweeted: “Omar Navarro, 34, is charged in a 43-count grand jury indictment — Four-Time Congressional Candidate Charged in Long-Running Misuse of Campaign Funds.”
Navarro had been automatically endorsed by the California Republican Party while running one of the most egregious grift operations in the nation.
In another instance, a lifelong Democrat in the San Francisco Bay Area had unsuccessfully run for Congress three times. Then in 2018, he decided to try it as a Republican.
The congressional seat has been held by an incumbent Democrat and only 15% of its voters are registered Republicans. No viable Republican ran, and this man breezed into the general election without campaigning or attending a local Republican Party meeting.
He was automatically endorsed by the California Republican Party.
Then, a month after the primary election, The New York Times published an article headlined “Holocaust Denier in California Congressional Race Leaves State G.O.P. Scrambling.”
The California Republican Party endorsed a candidate who said the Holocaust was a “complete fabrication” and that the Israeli government was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
Shupe, a Jewish man, was the chairman of the county’s Republican Party at the time and had to answer to the press as to why the California Republican Party endorsed him.
Fortunately, the county party never spoke to or endorsed him. Shupe’s rebuke of his candidacy was often not appropriate for publication, but was euphemized to “Mr. Shupe called Mr. Fitzgerald’s views unwelcome in the party, but said there was ‘no legal way’ to prevent a person from getting on the ballot.”
In the 2022 election, a candidate for legislative office sent the California Republican Party a cease-and-desist letter after she was automatically endorsed.
To rescind her endorsement, the California Republican Party’s executive board had to meet, essentially hold a trial, with speakers for and against, and then take a vote on whether or not to rescind the automatic endorsement that she didn’t want.
While this is all very inside baseball, it is an important change that directly impacts millions of voters throughout the state.
If you asked a friend for a restaurant recommendation and the place made you throw up, would you go back to that friend for referrals? I doubt it.
We hope that the Rules Committee and the delegates of the California Republican Party join us to protect our Republican candidates in 2024 by closing this crazy loophole in the CRP bylaws.
Matt Shupe is chairman of the Contra Costa Republican Party and a delegate to the California Republican Party. Ron Nehring is former chairman of the California Republican Party and a delegate to the California Republican Party.
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