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Ernie Konnyu


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I came to my topic, Energizing California Republicans, while advising a Republican candidate for State Assembly, a terrific Republican a number of you may know, Catherine Baker from the East Bay area. She was the Northern California chair for last year’s Romney campaign. I told Catherine that she will have to teach her district’s voters who are plurality Democrats why they should vote for a Republican.

Ernie Konnyu

You see, Catherine Baker and every Republican candidate will have to win the argument against that candidate’s Democratic counterpart. As Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher explained to her Tories, they must first win the argument than they will win the votes. In my experienced opinion, Thatcher was dead on target.

Now I will try to win the argument with the skeptics and the neutrals among you so you can help our Silicon Valley Republican candidates win the votes.

Our founding party father, President Abraham Lincoln, gave us, Republicans, the key to our political victories. Lincoln said, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.” That is the central theme of my speech to you today for it will, when we shall apply it to this state and to this Nation, bring us Republican victories giftwrapped by the people.

Ever since last year’s Democratic victories the media from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, from the Huffington Post to the Sacramento Bee…you know, those trusted sources of political wisdom…have been writing about what’s wrong with Republicans and telling us that we need to be more like the Democrats.

What is it that the liberals want us to copy or imitate? Is it the way they let the state’s teachers’ pension fund end today with a $73 billion funding gap as reported by Bloomberg News. Or is it Jerry Brown’s nation leading California unemployment rate of 9.6% that we must copy? Or is Jerry Brown’s 24% California poverty rating that’s so good that it makes California the leading state in the misery index? Probably not ‘cause those three issues alone would put Brown’s re-election in danger.

My second born daughter is a teacher and that 73 billion dollar retirement funding gap must worry her. She is not going to be voting for Brown if I know her. Further, if those unemployed or living in poverty ever find out that Democrat Brown’s economic leadership left them with a ton of government programs but outside in the cold without the hope of being able to climb the economic ladder they will dump him left and right.

That’s right Governor Brown! You could have done much better for Californians! Texas for instance invested successfully in jobs creation and now shows a 5.4% unemployment rate. You on the other hand wasted our tax payer funded government programs on utopian dreams on the environment and welfare for the asking.

And turning to Washington, what is so great at the federal level that Republicans should adopt? Borrowing over a trillion dollars from China, doubling the National debt in just the last five Obama years? Or is the end all, be all ObamaCare that the Lefties want Republicans to admire. Their healthcare accomplishments are things like 5 million people having their existing health insurance cancelled because of their law. And what’s sadder, the Blue state governors like California and Minnesota are not allowing the policy holders to keep their old health insurance for the extra year Obama permitted states to do. And there are small businesses having no healthcare exchanges for another year even though their company paid employee health insurance is being cancelled.

No my friends! Being more like the Democrats has hardly ever been and it is not now a successful solution awaiting Republicans.

Have we forgotten that just about three years ago in 2010 Republicans campaigned on the conservative principles of individual liberty and constitutionally limited government led by our Republican Tea Party members and we won in the South, in the Midwest and the Mountain West.

Why did we win in 2010? We promised the people to oppose ObamaCare, rein in out-of-control government spending, and roll back our regulatory burdens that are crushing or holding back our economy. And our 2010 election wave was stunning! Yes! We won a net additional 63 House seats, 6 U.S. Senate seats, 19 state Legislatures, 6 governorships and nearly 700 state legislative seats.

Today, we are told that as a result of the 2012 elections where we lost 8 House seats net, two Senate seats and a 4% loss of the White House we must abandon Republican principles and become some bastardized party called perhaps Republicrats or, if we don’t comply, consign the party of Lincoln to history.

Nonsense my friends! To the devil with the Progressives! We must be our conservative selves and follow Lincoln’s dictum. Correct what the people want us to fix as much as we can facing a Demo Senate and the President’s veto pen. That’s how we will earn our victories in 2014 and beyond.

If you want another example closer in history to us, let me talk a bit of Ronald Reagan, the man I had the privilege to introduce during the DeAnza College Labor Day rally a couple of miles from here where he kicked off his 1984 presidential reelection. (See Konnyu below speaking that day using the President’s lectern.)

Ronald Reagan guided us this way, “Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all the issues troubling the people. Let us show that we stand for fiscal integrity and sound money and above all for an end to deficit spending, with ultimate retirement of the national debt.”

Fortunately the people listened to Reagan and made him president. So it became morning in America. That would have never happened had we listened to those political soothsayers of the Left wanting to bust up our coalition by changing us into some sort of Republicrats. The logic of not being more like the Democrats is simple. Former Senator Phil Gramm nailed it when he explained, “Why would anyone want a Republican that’s a fake Democrat when they can have the real Democrat thing?”

To understand how Republicans must lead, let us travel down issues lane.

I am a Hungarian immigrant who personally knows that America benefits greatly from the work and successes of immigrants. But we are told by these same liberals that Republicans must go all the way with immigrants and change our position to amnesty now and away from strong border security. Why? Because, they say, we are alienating Latino voters. It is true that Latinos are a growing force of a third of California and 10% of America who voted 71% for Obama. It’s a public secret but political analysts also note that in 2012 Romney won the Latino vote among those Hispanics with incomes of $50,000 or more. That’s right. Latinos are disproportionately poorer than the general population so they vote disproportionately more for Democrats just as non-Latinos do.

What about the Republican war on women say the Libs. First, that is transparently as false a claim as one can make in politics because facts deny that falsehood. The 2012 presidential exit polls showed that married women did not believe that political lie because the majority of them voted for Romney. I have been on the inside of politics at all levels and all I ever heard was advice and debate about how to attract more women to vote for our candidates. There was no war on women ever except in the scheming minds of some Democrats…and I emphasize the ”rats” part of that word.

We know, as the old saying goes, that the hand that rocks the cradle rules at the ballot box. So, the Republican commitment to support women in their quest to burst through the glass ceiling in the workplace continues. Three of our four registered Republican daughters are businesswomen with two excelling and being paid very well in a traditional male dominated post, marketing electronics. There are plenty of Republicans committed to a broken glass ceiling.

So you ask, if people are the key to victory…and they are…what do the people have in common with Republicans?

The 2012 exit poll voters agreed with us on the need to amend or repeal ObamaCare. They agreed with us on government getting too big and doing what should be left to businesses or individuals. Even the polled Liberals agreed that my state mandatory workfare law requiring able bodied persons on welfare work or train for their welfare checks was a good idea. People agreed with us on stopping tax increases by a 2-1 margin. They also agreed that, “things in this country today are seriously off on the wrong track”. Ironically, these same people also agreed to elect Brown in 201 and re-elect president Obama in 2012 even though these are the leaders taking them down the wrong track.

As to Obama, his popularity is down into the 39% to 41% range mostly because he told massive untruths about ObamaCare and because it is not now working successfully. The generic Republican Congressional candidate on the other hand is now up leading the Democrat 43% to 40%. Per CNN Polling Director Keating Holland: “It looks like the biggest shifts toward the Republicans came among white voters, higher-income Americans, and people who live in rural areas, while Democrats have gained strength in the past month among some of their natural constituencies, such as non-white voters and lower-income Americans who need the free or subsidized ObamaCare more. Translated, the centrist voters are coming home to the Republicans and the folks dependent on government help are staying true to the Democrats.

Overall, thanks to Obama’s failures our candidates are winning on the issues again. That’s right! The people do not love us yet but Republicans are the ONLY ALTERNATIVE to Democrat failures. So we are again favored. And that favoritism to Republicans will stay and even improve as long as Republicans are seen willing to fix the problems..

And we must stop the Republican coalition busting quietly going on with BOTH the Republican Left and the Right.

On the Left. Just this week moderate FlashReport columnist Doug Lasken wrote a divisive column warning about the dangers of ultra orthodox social conservative Rick Santorum. It did not matter to Lasken that Santorum is not a Californian and is not running in 2014. He just want to kick conservatives unfairly. Several months ago one of our County Republican Central Committee members told me at a fundraiser that he and others believed that we ought to kick the religious right out of party. That kind of Republican thinking helped elect the smiling and all of a sudden God loving Jimmy Carter.

On the other hand some Right Wingers have called for expelling or marginalizing moderates, sometimes expressed by calling people RINO (Republican in Name Only). That kind of name calling hurts the party, especially the moderate business men and business women. Throughout the Nation these business people are mostly Republicans…and quite a few are donating Lincoln Clubbers…because of our Party’s strong support for free enterprise.

For the first time in American history, young people face a bleaker future than their parents enjoyed. Their concerns are real for the golden riches that characterized California are gone. California has become the highest unemployment state with the largest population of poor people…our Census Department cited poverty rate is 24%, the highest among the states in our country.

Jerry Brown is squandering our tax dollars, for example, by trying to prevent global warming through billions of dollars of tax increases on our utilities through forcing them to buy so called carbon credits. That raises our energy costs. Just this past week alone, according to the Sacramento Bee $297 million in carbon credits were auctioned off by the state. Yet, it will not even cure global or California warming. The Democrats say they are just doing the right thing. In reply let me again declare that those wasted AB32 tax billions won’t cure a damn thing.

While we have been down in recent elections, our party is repairing itself bit by bit in the Golden State.

In our county a redeemer has surfaced, our G.O.P. County chair, Charles Munger Jr. who has been a godsend to us such as when he funded by tens of millions the fight against the Brown tax increase and the fight to keep government unions from taking the taxpayers on too much of a ride.

It is no accident that ethnic leaders are on the rise in our party. These candidates will bring many of their ethnic followers to us. One of the three 2014 Republican gubernatorial candidates, former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado, is of Hispanic heritage. Because he more or less destroyed his chances with most conservatives by supporting Arnold’s state tax increases, Abel’s only hope in getting into the governor run-off is heavy Latino support. He will bring more Latinos into our party.

Another Republican candidate for Jerry Brown’s job, former Bush and Obama Administrator, the Indian-American Neel Kashkari is of Asian heritage. He is focusing on the 24% of Californians who are in poverty saying to them that he, a Republican free enterpriser, can do better for them than Brown.

Even Tea Party favorite, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, is running a campaign video for governor ad featuring his Filipina wife and talks about jobs creation that will help all Californians. Yes! Republican candidates are appealing to all races and economic strata to win, especially so in ethnic rich and poor people filled California.

The hallmarks of our free society are the opportunity for happiness, fulfillment and prosperity. Without that people-caring direction, without the bold colors Ronald Reagan said we need to paint, the Republican Party has no real chance to be redeemed, energized or shine again.

In Congress I served with the bombastic Texas economics professor, Representative Dick Armey, a former majority leader in the House. He explained why Texas elects so many Republicans and why our Bay Area Republicans do not have a single Congress member, state senator or Assembly member out of the current 24 office holders. Not a single one. Armey said, “When we act like Republicans we win. When we act like Democrats we lose.”

Our candidates must learn to fight boldly on those selected Republican issues the people admire about us. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich put it to me this way, “Select those issues where 60%, 70%, and 80% of the voters agree with you.” And I add in light of the Republican loss last year of the Missouri and Indiana Senate seats, be honest yet keep silent on those issues where you and the voters are far apart.

So now that I told you my secrets for Republican victories in deep blue California, how would these candidate lessons play out in 2014 races.

First I strongly suspect that Republican Catherine Baker of Dublin, if she can just low key her pro-choice, pro-gay marriage stands which normally scare off too many conservative voters, will win her 2014 Assembly race in A.D. 16.

Second, if Wilson Farrar can raise the minimum $500,000 for her June primary race and win the argument that “she and the Republicans can fix ObamaCare” she has a real shot. Why? Health insurance cancellations and health insurance rate increases that will continue into 2014. Yep! She can potentially upset the aging Congressional District 18 Democrat Congresswoman, Anna Eshoo.

In the intriguing open A.D. 28 Silicon Valley seat where many of you and I live, that’s Cupertino to Almaden Valley, the Democrats will most likely select the ambitious heavy union backed gay rights mayor of Campbell, Mayor Evan Loh in the June primary. If we can get a strong Republican candidate willing to argue that government union pension grabs are unaffordable and deny many services we’ll have a fair chance to win. I say that because the San Jose Mercury News reported that Mayor Loh has come out against the statewide pension reform initiative sponsored by Democrat mayor Chuck Reed of San Jose. Of course, we know Mayor Reed’s Measure B results on government employee excessive pensions is a Republican backed issue that is about a 70% winner our way. The right Republican candidate who can raise at least $300,000 for the primary and finish ahead of several expected Democrats can win the primary and thereby get the $1,000,000 support necessary win in the general election.

Now let me take off my rose colored glasses and apologize if I offended anyone here by not being sufficiently moderate. About our Republican ideological division let me paraphrase what Ronald Reagan taught us. Republicans who agree with us 80% of the time are 100% friends, not 20% traitors.

If we communicate our principles effectively, we can compete in every corner of the country including Democrat leaning Silicon Valley. In a deep blue state, Chris Christie just proved that a Republican who wins the political argument can win the governorship. A decade or so ago Arnold proved in California that a Republican who can win the argument can win in our state. Of course, I am also living proof that, albeit two decades ago, that a Republican who wins the argument in Silicon Valley can win a race for the Assembly and for U.S. Congress.

Victory is our Republican challenge! And we must achieve that for the salvation of our state and, really, our country is at stake. Help our Party energize our people who think like we do. Lead if you can. California needs an effective two party system that it does not now have. YOU can give that to our Golden State!

God Bless California! God bless America! Yes! God Bless America!

Ernie Konnyu, Republican of San Jose, is a Hungarian immigrant, a retired Air Force Major and former member of the California State Assembly and the U.S. Congress. Konnyu chaired for two years the Assembly Republican Policy Committee under Republican Assembly Leader Pat Nolan’s leadership. He and his wife, Lillian, just celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary on November 28th.