Jon Fleischman

Some Advice For GOP Legislators As Session Begins

As the new legislative session starts, as Republican legislators, you find yourself in the unenviable position of being at “super-minority” status for at least the next two years.  Could it be longer? You bet.  Could it get worse?  Go ahead and Google search the partisan makeup of the legislatures in Hawaii or Massachusetts.  Below I would like to offer ten pieces of advice if you would like play a role in achieving significant gains in GOP held Senate and Assembly seats in 2014.

Job #1 – The Loyal Opposition.  Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association pens an entire column on this in the FlashReport today.  No matter what committee you are in, and especially on the floor, take it to the Democrats.  Be forceful, and be clear that the policies they are putting forward are bad for the people of California.  Emboldened by their gains, Democrats will over-reach.  You’re job is to call them on it — every day — loudly.

Partisan Politics Is A Team Sport:  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  When you are in that building, there are blue and red jerseys for the players.  It is important to be there for your Republican colleagues with counsel and material assistance — and do not be afraid to ask for the same yourself.  It’s important, of course, to know all of your colleagues.  But start by really getting to know the Republican Senators and Assemblymembers.

Bipartisanship Is The Path To A Permanent Superminority.  There is nothing that would be more injurious to picking up seats in 2014 than for you to decide that it is “okay” to substantively aid Capitol Democrats.  You might do this by praising them when they do things that you like.  Go ahead — but look for your quotes in their mail pieces as they run for re-election. If the other side can convince the public that supermajority status is okay, we’re screwed.

Raise Campaign Funds In Your District:  There will be some Sacramento interest groups that will still give to you, because they are ideologically in line with you, or because they will give you a little while they give the Democrats a lot.  If you want to raise the kind of money it will take to play a serious role in picking up seats, your most fertile ground is at home.  Organize your top donors, set goals, be aggressive.  If they believe in you, they will support your efforts.

Don’t Let The Third House Roll You, Or Take You For Granted:  You may find as a member of the super minority that lobbyists and their clients prefer to focus their energy and time and political giving on the majority party, and (if they need it) taking your support and vote for granted.  Don’t let them get away with that.  The first time you are not there when they need you, that will fundamentally alter their behavior.

Elect Strong, Partisan Leaders, and Support Their Efforts:  Your team captain is important.  He or she bears the ultimate responsibility to perform the most important task – picking up seats for Republicans.  Give them your advice — volunteer to help them where they need it.  Most importantly – tithe.  Contribute from your campaign funds — and raise money into the Republican Party for their efforts.  If you don’t give, who will?

All Politics Is Local:  Organize your district.  Help the County GOP committee(s).  Encourage the formation of GOP and donor groups.  Use advisory committees to their fullest advantage, and be aggressive in working with main stream media as well as social media.  Even as you do this, if you are in a “safe” seat – coordinate with leadership and focus on a close-by district where help is needed, and do more of the same.

Is This Helping Us Get To A Majority?  How are you spending your time?  What do you have your staff members doing?  What about your campaign workers?  Don’t spend too much time worrying about in-depth policy analysis and engagement the next two years — it’s all about politics, it’s all about winning seats.  The Democrats will take all of the credit (and get all of the blame) for everything they do, which can be an advantage.

Get involved with the California Republican Party: No other State Republican Party in the nation seats every state legislator on its state committee, but California does.  Engage.  Get involved, and get the people you know involved.  Legislators will come and go — even those with twelve year horizons — but the party is permanent.  If you are unhappy with its current state, ask yourself what you personally can do to make it better.

Read And Refer Back To The ‘Laws Of The Public Policy Process’: Drafted years ago by Morton Blackwell, President of The Leadership Institute, you should take the time to print out the Laws of the Public Policy Process.  Here you will find 45 axioms that matter.  The 45th: “Pray as if it all depended on God; work as if it all depended on you.”

Good luck to you, and thank you for your willingness to serve.  The next two years will not be easy.  I will end this column with the words expressed by Benjamin Franklin on the floor of the Continental Congress in 1776 just before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  He said,  “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Truer words could not have been spoken.