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Doug Haaland

An Open Letter to California’s GOP Leaders

Dear CA GOP:

To paraphrase President Reagan’s phrase from 1962, it seems like I’m not leaving the Republican Party, but the Republican party appears to be trying to leave me. Since my political “awakening” during the ‘70’s there have been times that I’ve had to question where my principles place me on the political spectrum.

Throughout the turbulence of the Nixon Era, I’ve stood by the Party, as I reasoned that what a dishonest man did in Washington shouldn’t be the measure of my values and the people I support.

After President Ford bested Ronald Reagan for the Party nomination in 1976, I stood behind him since I was certain he’d promote better policies than Jimmy Carter. The Carter Presidency proved me right and I was rewarded for my devotion with 8 years of President Reagan.

When President George H.W. Bush told me to “read his lips” on the issue of new taxes, the promise of continued prosperity kept me holding firm to my Party and working to continue the Reagan Revolution. Of course, once the lip reading was finished so was Bush 41, but I persisted in the hope that my local candidates would learn a valuable lesson in sticking to the principles that got them elected.

Nearly 30 years ago, I was given the opportunity to join the fight directly when well-meaning, but obviously misguided souls (thank you, Bill Saracino, et al) decided that I had what it takes to be a staffer in the Assembly Republican Caucus. It was a personal privilege to serve in nearly every staff position afforded to a Member in both the district and Capitol offices of very honorable men and women of our State.

Being “inside” the institution gave me a perspective not afforded others. It allowed me the chance to understand the value of fighting for the principles of not only your party but also the impact those principles had on the people we served.

It’s why I relished the chance to be “in the trenches” during the recall campaigns against Republicans that gave their votes to continue the speakership of Willie Brown. I believed in the battle cry of “41 in 91,” I was engaged in the fight over “grassroots vs. legislators,” and I was fully committed to the concept that “bold colors” beat “pale pastels” every time.

It has been during my “Golden Years” with the Party that it’s become very noticeable that my party encourages my donation of sweat, tears, and money but party leadership seems to want me to stand in the corner and not wear my conservative philosophy proudly. I’ve become uncomfortable with the constant rant in the Party that we need to “change the brand” or that unless Republicans reject conservative “doctrine” and become more moderate to expand the “tent,” the Party will continue its precipitous decline.

It strikes me that this clarion cry has produced no significant benefits to the Party. On the national level, Republicans put forward candidates that fully embraced this more moderate party approach in the campaigns of Senator John McCain and Gov. Mitt Romney. They and the Party lost. On the state level, Republicans were told that “winning” was more important than a candidate’s conservative values and electing a Hollywood superstar was our best chance to emerge from the political wilderness.

In the end, we were left with a titular head of our party that Gavin Newsom, then the Democrat Mayor of San Francisco, said was on the road to becoming a Democrat. Also, why must I watch Republican state legislators abandon the conservative principles they wrapped themselves in during their campaigns, only to openly support Democrat tax policy and tell me they’ve saved me from “something worse.”

I don’t understand how, after asking us to give Republicans the House, the Senate, and incredibly capturing the Presidency Republicans who spent seven years telling me they would get rid of Obamacare and voting for hollow repeal measures, have turned their back on that promise.

We both opposed the “Top Two” primary ballot measure, but now our former Republican “leaders” want me to oppose its repeal. Why? The only result I’ve seen to date is a decline in the number of Republicans holding seats in the Legislature and besides, they were “leaders” while our Party went from over 36% of registered voters to just under 26% today.

I’ve stood by you through thick and thin, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to “keep the faith.” I appreciate that you have the right to change, but it’s the type of change you want me to go along with that’s becoming very confusing. You want me to be more “moderate,” but the lineup of speakers you’re giving me at the Fall Convention are viewed as “conservatives.”

Look, it’s hard for me to say, but maybe we just need some time apart to appreciate what each of us has to offer the other. No, it’s not you… it’s me… I guess I just don’t want to cause you so much pain and heartache so please try to understand. I’m not going to join the Green Party, I’ve always loved you but I’m just not able to commit to the type of relationship you want to have right now.

Take care and I hope you’ll use this time to figure it out. I know I will.

All the best,


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