MOORLACH UPDATE — Escorting Out Dissent — February 24, 2017

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, something new happens. Thursday morning at the conclusion of the Senate Floor Session, Senator Nguyen decided to share her thoughts on the memorial service that occurred two days earlier. On Tuesday, the Senate Floor Session was dedicated to eulogizing former California State Senator Tom Hayden. And many of his former colleagues and family members were in attendance.

Senator Nguyen bit her lip on Tuesday and stayed quiet out of respect for Senator Hayden’s widow and son, who were both present. Yesterday, she unloaded and would not be interrupted. The rest is history. Let’s just say that the bullying continues (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Senate Resolution 8 — February 6, 2017 february 6, 2017 john moorlach). provides the blow-by-blow City News Service story in the first piece below.

I understand that the Democrats are in the super-majority in the Senate and I have observed them regularly changing the rules to fit their needs. Yet, it boggles the mind how Democratic leadership could rationalize their adverse behavior based on some nonsensical parliamentary procedure they claim Senator Nguyen violated when it was clear they had planned to shut her down in advance.

I’m hoping that the Senate can recover from this and that we can move on. Just a few weeks ago, we listened to an adjournment by a couple of my Democrat colleagues on behalf of Sutter, the deceased dog of the Governor and his wife. Really? Last year, when recognizing the 105th birthday of President Ronald Reagan, we politely listened to a Democrat Senator share his criticisms of the former California Governor. Not one Republican ruled this Senator out of order. Enough said.

The California Republican Party Organizing Convention, which is required to be held in Sacramento, starts today. The San Francisco Chronicle decided to have a reporter/columnist determine how things would go over this weekend. Republicans are doing great nationally, but in California, not so good. The set up for the weekend festivities is provided in the second piece below.

I believe one small clarification is in order. The showmanship versus leadership quote applies to the Democrats here in Sacramento (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Tantrum Hurts — January 29, 2017 january 29, 2017 john moorlach).

GOP state senator removed from floor after criticizing Tom Hayden


Senator Janet Nguyen. Photo via Senator Janet Nguyen Twitter FeedSenator Janet Nguyen. Photo via Senator Janet Nguyen Twitter feed

As Republican lawmakers condemned the expulsion of Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, from Senate Chambers Thursday while she condemned the late former state Sen. Tom Hayden, the president pro tem of the senate said he was “greatly unsettled” by the way the dispute was handled.

Nguyen first made remarks criticizing Hayden, who recently died and was honored earlier this week by the senate, in her native tongue, but when the Vietnamese refugee began reiterating them in English another senator quickly complained she was “out of order.”

“Today, I recognize in memory the millions of Vietnamese and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees who died in seeking for freedom and democracy,” Nguyen said. “On Tuesday you had an opportunity to honor Sen. Tom Hayden. With all due respect, I would like to offer this historical perspective…”

It was then that Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, who was presiding over the body, cut her off and allowed Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, to complain she was out of order because she should have made the remarks when the senate was adjourning in honor of the lawmaker, perhaps best known for his opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1960s and ’70s and the protests he engaged in with his then-wife, actress Jane Fonda.

Lara continued to gavel Nguyen, who kept on with her remarks until the senator called for the sergeant of arms to forcibly remove her from the chambers.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, who had a front seat for the incident at his post next to Nguyen, said Lara appeared shaken after Nguyen was expelled.

“He came right up to me afterward and (said) he felt bad and that it was not what he expected,” Moorlach said. “You could see he was shaken too. He was instructed — probably incorrectly.”

Moorlach said he felt the opposition was planned in advance and that the call to find Nguyen out of order was not spontaneous.

“I think the Democrats knew this was coming because she had emailed on the proper manner of how to present” her remarks, Moorlach said. “They started to obstruct it based on a technicality and called for a point of order, so I think they were ready and it kind of shows the power the Democrats have, speaking as one in the super minority, but it also shows the kind of bullying that goes on on the senate floor.”

Moorlach added, “I think everybody was disturbed by this. We all walked out of that senate chamber feeling emotional. I think a lot of Democrats were not happy about the way this happened.”

Moorlach said he was one of a few Republicans who stoically sat through the ceremony for Hayden, although he had his differences with the liberal firebrand of the 1960s on the Vietnam War.

“I had one senate leader thank me for sitting and listening to it all, but I have to confess it wasn’t easy,” Moorlach said. “And if I were Vietnamese I would have had a really tough time.”

Moorlach said his colleague did not make her remarks during the Hayden tributes so she could avoid embarrassing his widow and family. She thought it was more appropriate to voice her opinion Thursday, Moorlach said.

Moorlach wasn’t the only Republican state senator upset by the incident.

“I’m outraged by the Senate majority party’s action of silencing my colleague and friend, Senator Janet Nguyen,” said Sen. Patricia Bates, R- Laguna Niguel, who served with Nguyen on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

“She was physically removed from the Senate Chamber for peacefully expressing her thoughts about the Senate earlier this week honoring the memory of former state Sen. Tom Hayden, a noted communist sympathizer,” Bates said.

“Senator Nguyen’s family escaped … Vietnam and came to the United States in search of freedom,” Bates added. “Unfortunately some Democrats did not like her comments and wanted to silence her… I’m proud of Sen. Nguyen for persisting and exercising her right as a citizen and legislator to peacefully express her views. This sad episode is a textbook case of men trying to silence a woman whose views they did not like.”

Bates also accused Democrats of a “shutdown” of a CalChannel TV feed.

Speaking to reporters at an unrelated news conference, Kevin De Leon, president pro tem of the senate, said, “I’m still trying to figure that one out” about the incident.

“I’m greatly unsettled at what took place on the floor,” Leon said. “I will be speaking with Janet Nguyen and the Republican leaders… shortly, but we want to give everyone an opportunity to have the ability to speak their minds.”

De Leon explained that “there was a parliamentary procedure that was not followed,” but that the issue “could have easily been dealt with.”

He added that Nguyen was “asked on numerous occasions to stop and that was ignored.”

State GOP Chairman Jim Brulte issued a statement:

“As a former member and leader in the California State Senate I’m disgusted by the silencing of Sen. Janet Nguyen on the Senate floor today. Janet’s personal story about fleeing persecution parallels the stories of many in her community and she stood on the floor to give voice to not just her district, but also the tens of thousands who have fled oppression. The Democratic leadership should be ashamed of their actions.”

— City News Service

California GOP dilemma: Do we embrace Trump or not?

By Joe Garofoli

Before the California Republican Party convention starts Friday in Sacramento, let’s ask Orange County state Sen. John Moorlach what he wants to get out of the weekend-long event.

“What are you, a therapist?” Moorlach cracked. “I’ll just stretch out on my couch here and tell you.”

Perhaps group therapy might be useful as state Republicans remain in a deep funk, while nationally the party is giddily in control of the White House, Congress and most statehouses. Pass the Xanax.

The question Republicans must answer this weekend: Do they distance themselves from the Trump administration, which is wildly unpopular among Californians but appeals to the GOP’s most conservative voters, or embrace it?

State party Chairman Jim Brulte knows where he stands.

“We’re going to celebrate the election of Donald Trump. There will be a lot of that at the convention,” Brulte, a former state legislator who enjoyed bipartisan respect in Sacramento, said Thursday. “As the president and the Republicans in Congress implement the agenda that they campaigned on, the economy will grow and that will be good for all Californians.”

Embracing Trump is a risky strategy. Only 26 percent of California’s registered voters are registered Republicans, just slightly more than the 24 percent who prefer not to state a party affiliation and far less than 45 percent who are Democrats. The GOP has no statewide officeholders, and Democrats hold a supermajority in the Legislature, rendering the Republicans virtually irrelevant.

In the next decade, Latino voters will be the state’s majority voters, but only 16 percent are registered as Republicans. Only 23 percent of Asian Americans are GOPers.

And the president’s new immigration order calling for ramped-up deportations isn’t going to improve those numbers. A Public Policy Institute of California poll released this month found that 60 percent of likely Latino voters in California already have a “strongly unfavorable” impression of Trump.

One more headache: No major, well-funded Republican candidate has stepped up to run for governor or U.S. Senate in 2018. Tick tock, the fundraising clock is running, and four big-name Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls have already raised millions. Without a strong candidate at top of the ticket — again — the rest of down-ballot Republicans will suffer next year.

Looming over all that is Trump’s unpopularity west of the Sierra. A month into his presidency, his approval rating in California is 37 percent among likely voters, according to that latest PPIC poll. Another 45 percent of Californians have no confidence that Trump will make the right decisions for the country’s future. Yet he is wildly popular with conservative Californians, as nearly 3 in 4 Republicans think Trump is doing a good job so far.

But it’s going to be hard to grow that support. What will people in the Central Valley think when Trump’s new immigration deportation orders kick in and they start losing some of their labor force? Some estimates say that 70 percent of California’s agricultural workers in red California counties like Tulare and Kern are undocumented.

Considering all that, Moorlach got serious about what he wants out of the weekend.

“I want to know, what’s the game plan?” he said. “Are we going to be working together or are we supposed to be flying solo, just raising money and trying to get re-elected.”

“Because if the trend continues,” Moorlach said, “my party will slowly become extinct.”

The Trump question is a bit more complicated for rank-and-file Republicans. A couple of top Republican leaders in the Legislature declined to talk about Trump’s impact on the party. They feel it’s a distraction.

Moorloch is more practical. He supports Trump now “because I’m a team player.” But he said, “I know a lot of megalomaniacs, and he is one. … He needs to quit the showmanship and let’s show some leadership.”

Brulte’s goals for the party this weekend are more politically practical. He wants to continue preparing to elect a GOP governor in 2018, to re-elect every Republican member of Congress and pick up a few seats, and to hold every party seat in the Legislature while snagging a few more.

How? Brulte feels Democrats won’t be able to nationalize the 2018 gubernatorial race by making it a referendum on Trump. Voters will want to know why 1 of every 4 children in California lives in poverty and why the economy isn’t working for people who live outside its coastal cities. Democrats, he said, with full control of state government, will have to answer those questions.

But that doesn’t answer the big question: What Republican is going to run for governor? Even though he’s said that he doesn’t plan to run for governor, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is scheduled to be at the convention this weekend and — just guessing here — it’s not because he thinks the weather is nicer in Sacramento. He’s still sniffing around.

Regardless, the future of Republicans in California is to continue the long, slow slog of rebuilding the party from the ground up by finding more candidates like first-term Assemblyman Vince Fong.

He’s one of few Asian American Republicans in the Legislature and represents a district around Bakersfield that is 30 percent Latino. Instead of running from Trump, Fong, 37, believes California Republicans should embrace the president by making use of someone close to him — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Fong was the district director for McCarthy for a decade and talks to him nearly every other day.

“Having a Californian in a position of influence is never a bad thing,” Fong said. “You have to have a seat at the table. We as a state know someone who has a big seat at the table. And that is something we can’t ignore. We should utilize it.”

California Republicans had better hope that McCarthy’s seat at the table brings in more jobs to the state. Otherwise, they’ll be spending more time on the couch.

Joe Garofoli is The San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer. Email: jgarofoli Twitter: @joegarofoli


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