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Ron Nehring

End automatic California Republican Party endorsements

Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites and other crackpots have received endorsements from the state GOP because of a flaw in party rules which awarded the party’s backing without a vote.

California Republicans gathering this weekend will elect the party’s leadership for the 2023 – 2024 election cycle.  With skyrocketing crime, homelessness and open air drug markets destroying Californians’ quality of life, the next election presents Republicans with great opportunities.

To offer voters a clear and better alternative to California’s Ruling Class, we must clearly define what our party does – and does not – represent.

In recent years our party has stepped on its own message repeatedly as a result of a serious flaw in party rules which has produced automatic state GOP endorsements for anti-Semites and other deeply problematic individuals who have chosen to use the party to draw attention for their ideas by running as Republican candidates in unwinnable districts.

This is not a small problem.

In 2018, anti-Semite and Holocaust denier John Fitzgerald ran for Congress in the hopelessly Democratic 11th Congressional District in the Bay Area.  In a competitive district, Fitzgerald would never have made it past the primary because other, more credible candidates would have squeezed him out.  However in this case because no reasonable and qualified Republican candidates ran, Fitzgerald made it into the general election by default.  And under the party’s current and deeply flawed rules, he automatically received the state GOP’s endorsement.

Predictably, the news media seized on the story, and rightly so.  A major political party endorsing a Holocaust denier is newsworthy, whether we like it or not.  News of the CRP’s endorsement was covered in the New York Times and national cable news networks.

The endorsement was ultimately pulled, but only after the damage was done.  The candidate got the attention he wanted for his anti-Semitic views.

This is not the only example of anti-Semites running for office in suicide districts to draw attention to their twisted cause.  Arthur Jones, another Holocaust denier, ran as a Republican in a deeply Democratic Chicago district in 2018 as well, also drawing national attention to his views.

These anti-Semitic, and other deeply problematic candidates, have no interest in the Republican Party.  They hate the Republican Party and all it stands for – precisely because we do not share their bizarre view of the world.  These “candidates” merely use the party as a vessel to gain notoriety and attention they otherwise do not deserve.

We must stop this cycle of allowing our party’s good reputation to be damaged by such individuals who have no interest in the GOP, only in promoting their hatred of others.

That is why this fall I will propose once again to fix the party’s rules to eliminate the automatic endorsement of non-incumbent Republican candidates for state and federal office without a vote.  Never again should an anti-Semite or other crackpot receive our party’s endorsement by default.

My proposal will require a vote of either the California Republican Party’s Board of Directors, Executive Committee or full state committee in order to back a non-incumbent candidate for federal or state office, even if the candidate is the only Republican on the November ballot. (Incumbent Republican officeholders are not the problem here, so the proposal applies only to non-incumbents).

There’s nothing strange or unusual about this proposal – endorsements and nominations have been a central role in the Republican Party since its founding in 1856.

Some may claim there are just too many candidates to evaluate, or to vet them would be too labor intensive.  Yet our county Republican committees consider and endorse candidates for local office all the time. In my county of San Diego, where I served as Chairman before becoming the state GOP leader, we endorse sometimes over 100 candidates in a cycle. 

Moreover, the process of vetting candidates can be expedited by using the same digital tools human resource managers use when reviewing job applicants – not to make the decision, but to provide information to those who do.

The endorsement of the California Republican Party can provide our candidates with an enormous boost.  Misapplied, however, it can cause our party, and all of our candidates, great harm.  Evaluating and endorsing candidates is a central role of a political party.  To protect our brand and ensure we communicate our values clearly, we must put an end to the abuse of our party’s endorsement process by candidates who are merely using our party as a vessel to draw attention to their twisted views.

Ron Nehring served as Chairman of the California Republican Party from 2007 to 2011.  He was Chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County from 2001 to 2006, and was the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor in 2014.