Four years ago San Bernardino County was a red county. Today, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by almost 31,000 voters. It is that statistic that has even the most ardent ultra-conservative grassroots San Bernardino County Central Committee members ready to vote for a . . . omg . . . sitting politician as the new chairman over the current “we the people” incumbent.
Unless one first flinches, a showdown could take place this month between sitting chairman, Robert Rego, and Assemblyman Curt Hagman. Hagman, one of California’s more successful Republican legislators, is challenging Rego for the top county spot.
Rego’s inability to initiate any significant voter registration drives during his tenure has been a sore point. Elected Republicans have all but abandoned the local party.
November’s Democratic annihilation of California Republicans served as a wakeup call to many with even hardcore, anti-incumbent Republicans coming to the realization that experienced leadership is needed before the party evaporates completely. At the state level, Jim Brulte is expected to become chairman. Locally, Hagman hopes to have his hand in rebuilding the party.
A survey of current central committee members (those who have listed email addresses) suggests Hagman will have no trouble wrestling away the chairmanship from Rego. Most refused to go on the record for fear of retaliation but Anthony Rice, a Libertarian-leaning Republican from the second supervisorial district, expressed what many others said off the record.
"Rego needs to go. The County Republican Party has become incapacitated due to his lack of leadership skills and his inaction with voter registration. There are a multitude of examples in the past couple years making him unfit to continue as Chair. Specifically, his handling of parliamentary procedure, Resolutions and Endorsements votes, vacancy appointments, and inappropriately ousting our Secretary," said Rice in a written response.
Not all are yet convinced. Henry Nickel, a fifth district member and former Assembly candidate, provided this written response. “I am wary of an elected official holding the office of chairman. The central committee has an unfortunate history of infighting and being exploited by individuals for personal political gain.
“I am glad to see Mr. Hagman expressing interest in being an active member of the central committee, however I am not convinced the best interest of the party will be served with an elected official of a partisan office serving as Chairman. He will have to provide an extremely convincing argument to the contrary to assuage my concerns,” Nickel concludes.
Rego is not without his supporters. John Mitchell, a former Colton city councilman and Central Committee member, provided his unsolicited thoughts. “Curt Hagman has announced that he is seeking the Chairmanship of the San Bernardino Republican Central Committee. WHY?
“He was asked to support the committee in the past 4 years and he refused. He has had no involvement with the committee, so what has changed? Could it be that he was in charge of the past Republican Assembly races and instead of winning 6 seats that he thought we would win, we lost 5?” he continued.
According to Mitchell, “He is termed out in 2 years and as chair he can feather the nest for his next gig? We can only make guesses. There is one thing we know for sure, He supported and endorsed a Democrat over a Central Committee endorsed Republican incumbent.
“The Central Committee bylaws call for Removal from membership for the following: Publicly discouraging a voter(s) from voting for the nominee of the Republican Party for any office; and/or Gives support or avows a preference for a candidate of another party or a candidate who is opposed to a candidate nominated by this party (California Election Code, Section7413). He should not be the Chair for this reason alone.”
Like many local Republican officeholders, Hagman supported Democrat James Ramos over Republican Third District Supervisor Neil Derry after Derry accepted a plea deal in a criminal case involving money laundering. The SBGOP endorsed Derry.
More likely than not, the top spot will be determined behind the scenes well before the meeting. If not, it may be an interesting meeting. It will take place on January 31 beginning at 6 p.m.
In addition to any fireworks, Jim Brulte will be the guest speaker. The meeting will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, 11481 Mission Vista Drive in Rancho Cucamonga. Visit www.sbgop.com for more information.
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