It may seem hard to believe, but three years ago the state and county Republican Party was in even more disarray that it was a year ago after being swept in state races and every consultant-propped GOP candidate being brought back down to earth as the state Democrats and left-leaning independents showed California that being moderate or financially-backed was no longer the way to win their support. The era of the Schwarzenneger-Republican was about to come to an end, though most did not take the lesson of McCain’s loss until the emergence of the Tea Party movement forced such an examination.
Back in Los Angeles County, incumbent RPLAC Chairman Linda Boyd had recruited a new slate for her executive board consisting of political connections and those that could raise funds from the inner circles. What neither she nor the other political consultants forecasted was the sweeping growth of discontent among the newer central committee members; this gave way to a political coup at the December 2008 Organizational meeting when Glen Forsch was elected to replace Boyd. Despite the attempts to remove members in order to remove quorum, the vote stood, and the Boyd slate made a conscious decision to remove their names from the board ballot. This brought in a slate of unchallenged, inexperienced executive board members, including perennial candidate Lydia Gutierrez and Ron Paul County leader Robert Vaughn. There were some who looked at this as an opportunity to see more transparency & accountability, and others, including myself, respected the democratic process enough to give them the opportunity to either succeed or fail.
When you’re a conservative living in a deep-blue county like Los Angeles, you’re used to losing elections and having to work with who’s in office in order to help one’s community. So for 5 months Republican County Central Committee members gave the Forsch board the chance to make some things happen and show us what they can do. Instead, the county budget was run deeper into debt, local elections in March 2009 were totally ignored, and the board was literally forced to hold a special executive committee election to consider the county committee’s position on the tax-raising Propositions 1A-1E. Despite an overwhelming vote by the executive committee members to oppose the propositions, RPLAC Chairman Forsch still went to Sacramento to vote FOR the propositions at the state executive committee meeting.
A change was desperately needed! The elections for 2010 were looming, and less than three months prior the country began experiencing tea party groups popping up everywhere. The energy of the Tea Party movement was telling Chairman Forsch that he needed to get the county party more active or get run over!
Enter Jane Barnett – one of those that former Chairman Boyd had recruited to run for her slate previously. Working with a covert team of GOP activists and Roberts Rules experts, Barnett led a counter-coup at the May 14th, 2009 meeting and instantly began an aggressive plan to bring back the party from the brink of bankruptcy and irrelevance. She held multiple fundraisers and donated hundreds of hours & dollars; she got local assembly district chairs to vigorously seek out local and state candidates for count y elections, and then backed them with whatever support the local GOP could afford. She was able to get most county candidates to not only support the GOP platform, but to help each other where possible. Barnett made sure the state party did not merely visit Los Angeles County to solicit donations from its more affluent areas; for the first time in nearly a decade, L.A. County had state and federal races make the state target lists (though the state had literally no money to provide), and Barnett logged thousands of miles between the Valley, the Inland Empire and the South Bay attending club events and candidate functions.
Despite all this, new RPLAC Chairman Jane Barnett was forced by former Second Vice Chair Robert Vaughn and a few holdouts to go through a time-wasting and funds-depleting law suit. He hired an out-of-state parliamentarian to provide a report supporting his position, and send numerous messages to the full membership of the County Central Committee asserting his claim to the RPLAC Chair based on assumed “resignations” by Forsch and Gutierrez and on the assumption that the events that transpired following these resignations were per se illegal.
I will not has out the details again here; the message I want to deliver here is through all that, Jane Barnett never wavered in her support for local and state candidates, and always found time to talk about key issues both internal to the Party and out in the mainstream media. When the nastiness from the lawsuit supporters, as well as the looming county Democratic Party, reached higher proportions, Chairman Barnett showed all of us what true leadership was by rising above it and carrying on in the best interests of the county party.
Having stepped down this month to attend to personal matters that were long made secondary to her dedication to the county party, Chairman Barnett has earned both unconditional support and a complete break from county politics. Her leadership and mentorship have given our members a foundation that can and will be built on when the county party holds a special election at its January 12th full county meeting to elect new board officers. New RPLAC Chairman Lynn Haueter has been a beneficiary of Barnett’s guidance, and will be wise to keep her cell phone number handy. With every position except Treasurer likely vacant for the special election, the future of RPLAC, including its performance in the 2012 election cycle, will be a referendum on how well its new leadership has paid attention to lessons learned these past three years.
For stepping in when our county party was in one of its darkest hours and most needed a source of bright light, Jane Barnett gave our party both the luminescence of such light as well as the warmth and comfort that a true leader provides.
When the conservative wave finally builds up enough momentum to either cross the Rockies or generate its own within what holds the fertile land still known as Reagan Country, we will have Jane Barnett to thank for ensuring we were prepared to welcome that wave and do what Southern Californians do best…right great waves to victory.
Thank you Madam Chairman! We know you will continue to succeed in all you do.