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Harmeet Dhillon

Newly Minted CA GOP Board Holds Inland Empire Retreat

[Publisher’s Note: Last weekend, just two weeks after the California Republican Party’s organizational convention, new CRP Chairman Jim Brulte brought together his Board of Directors for a retreat in the Inland Empire.  We asked CRP Vice Chairman Harmeet Dhillon if she would share with FR readers some of what took place.  Dhillon has penned a two-part column, the first of which appears below.  Part two appears here…  Flash]

CRP Board Retreat March 15-17 Wrap-Up – PART I
By Harmeet Dhillon, Vice Chairman, California Republican Party

I was honored this past weekend in Ontario, California to participate in an intense weekend board retreat of the California Republican Party. Planned and organized by our new Chairman, Jim Brulte, the weekend included presentations by over a dozen leading and thought-provoking political professionals on the challenges ahead for our party.

Jim Brulte set the stage for the weekend retreat at our first board meeting on March 3, immediately following the election and conclusion of the CRP Sacramento biennial organizing convention. Chairman Brulte shared with us his management philosophy, which includes best management practices such as transparency, adherence to bylaws, competitive bidding, and acting as a body as opposed to a one-man show. He told us his expectations for board meetings: that all participants would arrive adequately prepared, that presenters would complete their presentations and materials well in advance and circulate them to the Chairman, and that confidential portions of board proceedings (sensitive legal and financial discussions) would remain so.

Most CRP board members arrived in Ontario on Friday afternoon, some with spouses. Over the course of the weekend, all but two of approximately 24 board members were physically present or represented at the meeting, and most participated actively. In addition to board members, several spouses and some guests, mainly presenters or alternates for ex officio members, attended the open session meetings and found them informative and fascinating. In between sessions the participants had great opportunities to get to know one another.

Following dinner on Friday, Chairman Brulte shared a detailed Power Point presentation on the modern history of political parties in the US and how America’s changing demographics are affecting the Republican share of the vote. Laden with details concerning increasing minority participation in the electorate, the presentation was a sobering reminder that our party must evolve to better connect with the present electorate in order to remain relevant. Also fascinating were some of the historical perspectives that the chairman shared, including political shifts in the South, Ronald Reagan’s unique place in time in uniting foreign policy hawks, fiscal conservatives and social policy motivated-conservatives, pulling in moderate Democrats in order to win decisive victories. In the intervening 30-plus years, the cold war is over, social attitudes have shifted, and in California Latinos are an absolute majority of the under-18 population, signaling a seismic demographic shift ahead.

Saturday morning began with a hearty 7:30 a.m. breakfast, followed by a series of presentations. First up was Matt Rexroad, Yolo County Supervisor and partner in the Meridian Pacific political consulting firm. For forty-five minutes Matt presented a highly detailed series of maps showing us the contours and recent voting patterns of the 2014 targeted Congressional, Assembly and Senate districts, followed by a different slice of the data showing us five overlapping geographical areas that included targeted legislative seats. These are the areas that the CRP will likely be focusing the bulk of its efforts in 2014, and they include regions from Sacramento down to San Bernardino.

Next up was Jessica Millan Patterson, who heads up the Trailblazers program, which is a state legislative training program modeled on the successful “Young Guns” program created by the NRCC to nurture, train and promote promising new Congressional candidates. The program, funded by the Senate and Republican leadership, brings together the top Republican campaign professionals to set individual goals and targets for Republican candidates. Jessica was joined by Rocky Chavez, freshman Assembly Member from the San Diego area, who explained the programs goals from the leadership’s perspective. Although the program had relatively modest victories in its first full cycle, it shows promise for the 2014 season.

Garry South speaks to CRP Board

Jessica was followed by one of the most hotly anticipated speakers of the session, Garry South, veteran Democrat political consultant who helped elect Gray Davis to two terms.  Garry South provided some “tough love” to the rapt audience, showing us slide after slide in his presentation entitled “If you find yourself in a hole ….” about how the demographic trends of the state, coupled with positions that Republican candidates have taken in recent elections that South contended are unpopular with voters, have resulted in a relatively toxic situation for the party, “teetering on the brink of extinction.” South’s pithy and incisive comments and slides fully awakened any audience members who might still have been sleepy from the early morning start. (Chairman Brulte’s staff provided large boxes of chocolates and home baked banana bread, which many participants availed themselves of during the presentation). South took questions from the audience, particularly about his implied suggestion that Republicans soften their stances on certain issues, including immigration and some social issues.

Before lunch we also heard from Mike Madrid, founder of GrassrootsLab, a data firm that aggregates a tremendous amount of data on the political affiliations and demographics of local elected officials throughout California. In stark contrast to the searing presentation from South, Madrid and his partner’s presentation offered positive news about the fact that Republicans substantially outperform registration throughout California on school boards, city councils and mayor’s seats. Madrid’s database of micro-sliceable data (broken down by gender, ethnicity, profession, etc.) could prove very valuable to the CRP and counties in recruiting candidates for up-ticket races in coming cycles. Several county chairmen on the board discussed the endless possibilities using this data during lunch.


UP next – including Latino and Asian voters; voter registration programs; audit of past CRP board term; overview of party finances; Burbank headquarters; immediate focuses of the new board.