Tarnish now showing on once-shining Placer GOP

By: Jim Ruffalo
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Don’t look now, but it could be entirely possible that a once omnipotent local Republican party is in the midst of taking a once super-safe congressional district and putting into play for a possible Democratic takeover come November. The reference, of course, is to the 4th Congressional District. Once so safely in the hands of the GOP that even a tarnished John Doolittle won re-election last time around, now that slam dunk is on the verge of being a last-second desperation half-court heave. The reasons for my theory are threefold: an ever-dwindling voter registration margin that the Republicans once enjoyed, a quantum leap in campaigning expertise by the Democrat challenger, and an internecine battle in local GOP ranks that makes the Civil War look like a high-school debate. Things are so bad with the local Central Committee that one wag suggested its next banquet would feature a menu consisting solely of its young. It’s no secret that the Republican ranks are thinning when it comes to voter registration. Local Democrats are also having shrinking lists, but that erosion is nowhere near the rate of the Republican swoon. Meanwhile, the independent and decline-to-state categories keep growing. That latter group is who usually casts the deciding votes for national offices, and one motivation for some of those aforementioned voters is the compunction to be on the winning side. This upcoming election will feature more than two dozen congressional races where a Republican incumbent has grabbed his or her pension and opted to leave office voluntarily. As would be expected, the bulk of those offices being vacated are in districts where a non-incumbent Republican would be hard-pressed to have an easy race. Because of that, campaign money — the mother’s milk of politics — is being squirted more to the Democratic side than to the Grand Old Party. In the meantime, the local party apparatus is busy destroying itself, apparently for no other reason than hubris. The Central Committee has backed Tom McClintock, while the more grassroots groups are steadfastly supporting Doug Ose. And with the Central Committee backing one side over the other in a primary election, Ose supporters are decidedly lethargic about hewing the company line. This worsening warfare has not escaped the fine eye of Cheryl Maki, who is one of the brighter political minds in these here parts. Maki, who enjoyed rave reviews for her services as moderator of the recent Soroptimist’s Congressional Candidates Forum, admitted that she didn’t enjoy that presentation as much as she wanted. “We prepared the event as a forum, not a debate,” she said, explaining that she wanted the congressional candidates to point out their platforms and qualifications in an adult fashion. “Instead, some of the candidates decided to sling a lot of mud,” she said, her voice easily showing her disdain over the sandbox behavior. Maki has a point. When you get candidates with the gravitas of McClintock and Ose, one would expect campaigning at a much higher level. Granted, politics isn’t beanbag, but it shouldn’t be smackdown cage fighting, either. While Maki didn’t say who tossed the first mud ball, it doesn’t matter, slimewise. The result of all this negative campaigning by the Republicans is that we’ve gone from debates to mud wrestling, and it’s really time to stop. “I talk to a lot of voters,” the Republican Maki said, “and it’s become quite obvious that they’re being turned off by these dirty campaigns.” To make matters worse for the GOP — if that’s possible — the Democratic candidate appears light years better than he was just two short years ago. Charlie Brown was at this past week’s Meddlers, and he noticeably impressed a mainly conservative crowd with his straightforward and unhesitating answers to some pointed questions. Even better for the Democratic side, Brown has discarded that old stump speech of “How I Saved Cambodia” and has opted for a triangulation tactic that seems to work well. He opened by theorizing that “political partisanship is killing this country,” he said, adding that it’s past time that we all started to talk to each other again, rather than yelling at one another. The retired Air Force lieutenant colonel pointed to his military background, insisting that’s a world where the emphasis is on solving problems. He also took pains to say that he’s lived here 17 years, and — to his credit — never once uttered the word “carpetbagger.” Brown went on to back Second Amendment rights, and promised support for ending earmarks, halting cost overruns, upgrading the military, and seizing control of the ever-rising cost of the nation’s social programs. Sounded very Republican in a district that used to be very Republican. In fact, he claimed he used to consider himself a Republican (although never claimed to have been registered thus). Too bad he isn’t one. This congressional district could use a Republican who pushes the idea of getting along. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Wednesdays and Sundays in the Journal. He can be reached at, or post a comment.