Local GOP organizers outgunning Dems in last two races

When only 28 percent of the public turns out to vote in your community, the winners, their like-minded constituents, or their political operatives shouldn’t be too boastful about any “mandate from the people.” Any business would recognize that. I rarely see that in local politics, however.

They often just crow “We are the champions,” rally around their like-minded constituents and the polarization continues. It’s going to happen again — in fact, it is happening.

But beneath it all, I have noticed that the local “R’s” have been more successful than the “D’s” when it comes to grassroots organizing, at least in the past two races, often with some hardball tactics.

In our county, the voter roles are becoming more evenly split among “R’s” and “D’s,” with a large number of “decline to state.” So when too many “R’s” get elected, it’s a “governance gap” — and it also can be a sign of ineffective grassroots organizing on one side or another. Voters are apathetic by nature, so you need to rally them to your cause.

As for the “R’s” successful organizing efforts in our community, examples include: Jan Arbuckle’s (R) first-place finish in the Grass Valley City Council race in 2012 and Democrat leader Jim Firth’s defeat,  and this time around, Dan Miller’s toppling of incumbent Terry Lamphier for District 3 supervisor, and Hank Weston’s decisive win against Fran Cole in District 4.

Another poignant example this time: the closer than expected race for County Superintendent of Schools —Hermansen vs. Haas — where the hard-right used Common Core standards as a political battering ram to win grassroots support. It turned out to be effective, at least for Haas’ side.

To be sure, some of this reflects on the individual candidates, such as “likeability.” In a small town, people like that, often more than the critical thinking aspect. You hear: “But he’s so nice, or she’s so nice.”

Name recognition also is a dominant factor in local races, with the so-called “one minute” voter who often is not aware of the unintended consequences of voting for one candidate or another — until after the fact.

The “R’s” grassroots efforts — led by an alliance with the moderates and hard right — include some hardball tactics, including political bullying, personal attacks and a Tea Party-managed PAC.  We saw it in some of the races. The PAC dollars also infiltrated the judges’ races, which are supposed to be immune from politics. Ha!

A small community like ours has always been vulnerable to “hardball tactics,” because most people aren’t like that. They just walk away from confrontation, rather than stand up to it. It’s one reason for low voter turnout. They view our local politics are toxic.

If the “D”s are unsatisfied with the outcome of local races, they ought to regroup. Because for now, the “R’s,” supported by the hard right, largely are running the show in our community.

And it’s going to ramp up too, as witnessed by the campaign of the Tea Party-supported “Americans for Good Government” that I wrote about last week.

“Americans for Good Government” plans to fill 60 open seats on boards and commissions throughout the County with like-minded candidates to “build a strong farm team for elevation to local office, while affecting local policy and fiscal matters,” with support from organizers who include Tea Party Co-Founder Mark Meckler. The details are here.

Some “D’s” laughed at this, but they shouldn’t be.


Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

32 thoughts on “Local GOP organizers outgunning Dems in last two races”

  1. Adopting the vocabulary of the right. “outgunning” Decline or advancement of civilization begins with the choice of words.

  2. When Democrats vote, they win. When they don’t vote, they loose. Simple as that. Get out the vote is the ticket.
    IMHO, you are also correct that DEMS must field candidates willing to forget playing nice. Ain’t no congeniality winner!
    Local upcoming offices need to start candidates running now for any elections now through 2016, armed with facts and support, now.

    Pretty sure we will start seeing that very soon.

    1. Guess you were out of town and missed the whole defense attorney financed Alkire campaign, who by the way was the biggest looser in a County wide race. Not to mention Cole’s last minute slime hit pieces behind the lockyer case (who she took $4000.00 from).

      1. Don,
        No, we were here. Just don’t view the world with “tunnel vision” as you do. Judging from the returns, most of the people could have cared less about our local politics this election. Maybe you should go for a walk in the woods or swim in a lake. Happy Summer!

      2. Nice bob and weave but the point Curtis made was the dems need to be nasty to win. They were and how did that work out? I live in a forest filled with lots of flora and fauna like a red fox. humming birds, stellar and scrub jays, gross beaks, woodpeckers, families of bambies that love my roses as well as a set of breading hawks and too many more blessings to mention. Given my disabilities I am now denied the pleasure of swimming or body surfing.. I will however have a wonderful summer, thank you for the sentiment,Don

      3. Don,
        No, the hard right “won” the election based on this activity. Sounds like a wonderful home you live in. Hope you get to enjoy it.

      4. Jeff, just exactly what do you mean by ‘hope you get to enjoy it? Sounds threatening. We have been down that road repeatedly with the good old boys and it has not gone well for the scumbags. In a few days I can share everything including wire taps and security videos. But of course you know that.

      5. Don,
        I was merely saying “I hope the summer goes well for you.” Please do not use that kind of language here. May I suggest that you give it a rest on this blog? Thanks.

      6. “Jeff, just exactly what do you mean by ‘hope you get to enjoy it? Sounds threatening. We have been down that road repeatedly with the good old boys and it has not gone well for the scumbags. In a few days I can share everything including wire taps and security videos. But of course you know that.”

        Seriously Don? WTF does that mean? I’m not even sure you know what it means.

        Please, bring on the wire taps and security videos!

      7. “…hasn’t gone well for the scumbags. Sure did this election for the most part.

  3. “The two parties have combined against us to nullify our power by a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of non-recognition, no matter how we vote … May God write us down as asses if ever again we are found putting our trust in either the Republican or the Democratic Parties.” – W.E.B. DuBois

  4. Maybe apathy is a national epidemic, because Democratic indifference also seems evident here in St. Augustine, Florida.

    Two months ago, I contacted the local Democratic headquarters and asked if they knew of any Democrats running for county commission who I might be able to help. (Here, candidates for county commission run based on party affiliation). I gave them some brief bio info and said I would like to help someone. They provided me with a candidate’s name and e-mail address and suggested I contact him.

    I did as they suggested and gave the candidate my telephone number as well as email address. But despite the fact that I am a registered Democrat here, the candidate has never gotten back to me.

    Nearly two weeks ago, I emailed a person who just announced their candidacy for mayor of St. Augustine. Again, I provided some brief bio info and asked if we could meet for a cup of coffee –– and soon. I reminded them that the August primary will be here in the blink of an eye and that I might have some insight that could benefit their campaign. To date, there has been no response from the candidate.

    I may not be a brilliant political strategist, but heck –– I ran for city council four times and won four times, so I must have done something right during those campaigns.

    It’s pretty damn frustrating when you reach out to help someone and they don’t have the good manners to even respond. For me, it’s happened twice in two months. That’s not the kind of “grassroots” politics I remember.

  5. I would say the Democrats had the perfect opportunity in 08′ to reverse the horrible policies both parties have embraced over the last 40 years. Unfortunately they didn’t, which tells me the strangle hold of big business on our government is in both political parties. Obama and the Dems have ruined any kind of hope for progressives. It has caused people like myself to really encourage labor and environmental movements to put their differences aside and combine to become the new left in America since the democrats are securely on the right side of the aisle over the last two decades on most big issues.

    I actually really like the NCDP and think they do a pretty good job of keeping enough people engaged in a losing district. It is very tough to fund raise and get people energized when the odds are so great against you election after election.

  6. I think the goals of the local DEMS do not necessarily ONLY reflect the National and State PARTIES. THEY DO, AT OUR LOCAL COUNTY LEVEL, have to counter what some clearly see as a bunch of old white men hell bent on running government like a Gestapo (and that view on a good day), and doing the dirty work of the rich one percent. Wonder who they will try to destroy that is elected in 2012. If they ain’t got the black guy in the White House will they have the same motivation at the local level? The bottom line is they gotta capture the anger of the masses, one voter at a time.

  7. Steve,
    I am not understanding what you are saying.

    I personally would put business/ economy far down on the list of priorities. For far too long business/ economy has sat atop of our priority list. Just look at the climate change issue, we are literally talking about mass extinction and the economy gets the preference every time. With no or little ability to grow food, house the displaced, and afford to deal with the affects of the increasing disasters associated with climate change the economy is kaput.

  8. It is about time we evolved from calculating or measuring the worth of nation through an inefficient and destructive tool of material wealth. Robert Kennedy understood this in 1968 and gave one of the best speeches on what it means to be a proud American.

    1. I don’t know whose case you think you are countering, but it certainly ain’t mine. Getting us to shift from purely monetary forms of behavior and measurement is my lives work.

  9. Ben, I guess the point I am making is that ‘business’ is not a monolithic group, just as no other group is monolithic.

    The interests of small and medium sized businesses are not necessarily the same as corporate business. The interest of the renewable energy industry, or local agriculture industry, or infill builders and affordable housing industry, or tech industry, is not necessarily the same as General Electric, Exxon, Koch or Goldman Sachs.

    There are now hundreds of businesses in the US who have adopted ‘benefit corporation’ models where environmental and social benefit have equal standing with the financial bottom line in measuring success. There are dozens of business groups like CERES, or the California Business Alliance for a Clean Economy, or the American Sustainable Business Council who are taking a stand for fair wages and environmental quality.

    In the end, 98% of the worlds population lives in a country where capitalism is the economic system, the private sector controls more than 75% of capital and investment in the US, and 85% worldwide. If we want to get to the scale necessary to really make a dent in climate change and poverty we need to engage and shift the priorities of the ‘business’ community, and create business models that value social and environmental benefits.

    The issue here is a Maslow’s hierarchy issue; business and economy sits atop the heap because it is how we allocate scarce resources (land, labor, capital) and reward benefit. People will always prefer the physiological (food, water, shelter, etc.) over self-actualization (morality, creativity, self esteem) because without the first the second is impossible.

    The big trick is getting both at the same time.

    I am working with business groups right now who are standing with environmental and labor organizations on immigration reform, expanding the scope of the clear air and clean water acts, who support threatened and endangered species protection, or who are making real strides toward carbon neutrality and socially responsible behavior in their supply chain.

    These people can and should be powerful allies….they bring talent, resources and legitimacy to the effort.

    Think Jujitsu!

  10. Steve
    We are in total agreement and as you know I really admire the work you do. What I am saying is it takes government policies and laws to shape a mass economy. When we have two out of two parties who virtually cow tow to big business at every turn controlling our government it is impossible to get anything passed other than around the fringes, which are symbolic but not really effective.

    “If we want to get to the scale necessary to really make a dent in climate change and poverty we need to engage and shift the priorities of the ‘business’ community, and create business models that value social and environmental benefits.”

    The question is how to create such a business model on a LARGE scale with the controlling parties of government working against it? I put LARGE in all capital because that is the core of the question. When ever I bring up public banking to active politicians and use North Dakota as an example it always gets shot down with the remark “North Dakota is a dinky economy and state, it wouldn’t work in California”. That is a cop out answer and basically an answer that tells me big banks are either funding or threatening the political party of the person I am talking to.

    I am all for small and medium size business but large scale businesses need to be either eliminated or strongly regulated so they don’t do more harm than good.

  11. Politics follows culture…culture does not follow politics. Change business systems by demonstrating models that value social and environmental benefit, and use those models to scale change. Eventually politicians will follow because voters demand it. The same way voters shifted on civil rights, voting rights, equal marriage rights, and regulation. 140 years there was virtually no regulation.

  12. Steve,
    Tell that to those who experience the difference between Hoover and FDR. It is the type of economy that is shaped through budgets and laws that determine. It is way more cost effective to go green for many businesses but they don’t because it is not mandated.

    I have been working with the group of the plastic bag ban and the results both confirm and contradict your opinion. A huge majority of people in Nevada County back it, the businesses back it, and the chain stores like safeway, cvs, riteaid, ect… are all doing it in the over 100 communities where plastic bag bans have already taken place. So what is the hold up in Nevada County? Grass Valley balked at putting in an ordinance and the BOS shot it down last meeting. We have tried to get the businesses to do it voluntarily but only a few really dedicated ones chose to do it.

    1. HI Ben. we all have the State regulations coming into effect and that is an equalizer for all business in the State. Why let the neighboring Counties have an advantage that already suck our tax dollars by giving better prices. Why hurt our small businesses and force a competitive disadvantage on them?

    2. Having read probably 30 histories or more of the New Deal, and 10 biographies or more of Franklin and/or Eleanor Roosevelt, I can assure you their thought, the choices they made, and their actions in a moment of crises, were the product of a relentless push for the implementation of progressive policies starting with the rise of the labor movement and the middle class reform movement of the late 19th and early 20th Century. Even they followed a rising culture, and bucked the culture they were born into, leading to the charge that FDR was, “a traitor to his class”, which he happily embraced.

      The progressivism represented by the New Deal was essentially the final act of the movement not the first. The post New Deal neo-liberalim that emerged after WWII was an entirely different animal.

      Capitalism, the economic system of de facto choice globally, the system of trade, industry, production, private ownership, and private benefit, that allocates resources in a complex system, is a fact of life. Thus the choice becomes, until or unless an alternative system emerges, how do we create values, how do we shape, manage, adapt and direct capitalism, to meet societal goals.

      I think we both agree that government and regulation are necessary. I think we differ on the strategy to counter the power of money (not just from business but from every special interest) in politics. I agree that we must campaign to limit the power of money in politics, support campaign finance reform, support full suffrage and open elections. I merely think that change is more likely to come about if the coalition that demands it is broader than narrower, and showing small and medium sized business, who are the vast majority of business, that their interests are not being served, is necessary to overcome the power of corporate influence.

      My main point was that by rejecting forward thinking business and engaging in rhetoric that diminishes business, without concurrently recognizing or acknowledging that many and a rising number of business share the same values of the environmental and labor movements to reduce pollution, global risk, and poverty, we retard progress toward the coalition we need to scale change.

      Regardless, I have no doubt that we share the same cultural values.

      Modern ‘progressivism’ has been knocking on the door for a long time. It is time to look for the window.


      1. Steve,
        I have read tons of labor history, progressive history, and history in general as well. I have received first hand and family member accounts of major labor battles of the 20’s-60’s. We basically are saying the same thing but using different language. The big difference between us is I hold the Democratic Party more accountable therefore have less faith they will do the correct thing at the end of the day. I was a Democrat (80’s & 90’s) and being a labor guy and environmentalist have experienced many double crossing or stabs in the back by the leadership of the party so I left the party and have held their feet to the fire ever since. Up until 2009- 2010 I thought there was a big difference between the two parties and then my eyes were opened with the Obama administration and the 111th congress. They had a perfect scenario to become the peoples party again and they decided to go with the double speak instead of true representation. I can give a long list of things that happen or rather didn’t happen but will save the time and energy since you already know what I am talking about. The people working at the ground level in the party are awesome and even those running to represent the party (Heidi Hall included) have the best intentions but at the end of the day if the leadership calculations doesn’t add up to more votes in the next election it generally doesn’t happen. Those calculations figure in many variables but the big ones are about financing. How much can we get and how much will be used against us? It’s a cynical view of the the two parties, you better believe it is the truth. Self preservation is the number one priority of the Democratic and Republican Party’s. I judge on actions not rhetoric. The Dems have been letting down their base for around 40 years now and the party is really suffering because of it.

        I say it all the time the only thing that matches my disgust of the Republican Party is my disappointment of the Democratic Party. If they would just step up and be the peoples party like they boast about they would have huge majorities for generations to come. Instead they play the third way game and calculate/ triangulate their way into being a very ineffective party that makes every election season a nail biter. I would say that is the strategic plan of those who control both parties but others would disagree.

        Keep doing the good work you are doing and I will keep speaking truth to power.

      2. Ben, I respect and like you, and appreciate your point of view, but must point out that by placing blame on ‘parties’ you are falling right into the party trap. Do you seriously believe that an ascendent ‘third party’ would not take on the very same characteristics of the dominant ‘parties’ that you loathe?

        If we are really going to change things we have to do it in the dominant culture first, have it filter into belief and behavior, and direct ‘party’ to represent those beliefs.

        As I have stated numerous times here ‘party’ is baked into our Constitution, much to the chagrin of some of the founders. Changing that will take decades. In the mean time incremental progress needs to be made. The trick is getting the ‘parties’ to reflect the people instead of the people to reflect the ‘parties’.

  13. Don,
    The ordinance the state passed is a very watered down compared to most if not all the other ordinances. Truckee ordinance and Nevada City is much better than the state and it was a rare opportunity for local government to supersede a state law, I am a big fan of local government/ self determination. The state law keeps handled plastic bags in circulation with a 10cent fee attached to it, which defies the whole point. I have been opposed to the fee route because it creates another government department. I think our state and federal governments are so bloated already the last thing we need is another fee or department to try and maintain. For 99.99999999999999% of human existence plastic bags didn’t exist, so why is it now we can’t seem to live without them? There is no competitive advantage or disadvantage to carrying plastic bags. Grocery Outlet who fully supports the ban if implemented spends $6,000 a month on plastic bags.

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