MOORLACH UPDATE — Sieve — March 2, 2017

When a reporter calls you and he has all of the facts, you have two choices. The first is to clam up. The other is to state the obvious. It is obvious that our Caucus Leader is terming out and after working her tail off, needs to find a successor.

This reminds me of the fun claim we would make about the Fifth Floor of the Orange County Hall of Administration. It was the floor where the Supervisors’ offices were located. It was known as a "sieve." You could not keep a confidence (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Confidential Report — August 13, 2012 august 13, 2012 john moorlach).

All good leaders have a succession plan. And our Caucus leader has been working on one for some time, as she should. President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is probably going through the same exercise. This is no surprise.

Do I want to be the next Leader? No. Do I know who wants the position? No. Did we discuss it? No. Someone had leaked the subject and I told him it was not discussed as we had to leave the Capitol for a fire drill. End of story. The non-surprise is provided by the LA Times in the first piece below.

The second piece below is from the San Francisco Chronicle and provides a reflection of the morning session messaging at the California Republican Party convention, where I was interviewed. The columnist allowed me to be the closer.

State Senate Republicans begin discussing transition of leadership, but some are reluctant to take on the job

By Patrick McGreevy

Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller of Bakersfield has begun talking to colleagues about eventually stepping down and passing the torch to another member given that she is termed out of office next year, but so far nobody has publicly agreed to take over the job, officials say.

An attempt by the 13-member Senate Republican Caucus to discuss a possible transition Tuesday was interrupted by a fire alarm drill, so the subject was put off at least until the next weekly caucus meeting, March 7.

“[Fuller] has been calling all of us to say, ‘Hey, are you interested,’” Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said. “The question is, who is willing to take it and when do we do it?”

Fuller declined to comment on the issue, saying "It is the custom and practice to respect the members of the caucus and the discussions that we have."

Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) has been approached about the job by colleagues because term limits will not force her out of office until 2022, but she declined comment on Wednesday.

“Sen. Bates said that it would not be appropriate for her to comment at this time,” said Ronald Ongtoaboc, her spokesman.

Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) is among those not interested in becoming the leader, a representative said. Moorlach is in the same boat.

“Who wants that job? I’ve got other things to do. It’s a busy job,” Moorlach said. “I was a business major, not a poli-sci major.”

The job is made more challenging by the fact that Democrats hold two-thirds majorities in both houses, meaning Republicans are no longer in a position to alone block major actions including tax increases.

California Republicans: The new party of the poor?

By Joe Garofoli

Here’s how one political party in California is charting its path to victory. It’s talking about how hard it is to buy a house here. It’s outraged about the income inequality between rich coastal cities and poor Central Valley towns. It wants to help Californians on general assistance get better dental care. It’s talking up class warfare and calling out rich guys in Silicon Valley.

And that party would be the Republican Party of California. Really.

The GOP is basing its reboot on a cold, hard fact: More than 1 in 5 Californians live in poverty, the highest rate in the country when you factor in the higher cost of housing and living in the state. And they say that the Democrats, as the party that holds every statewide elected office and supermajorities in the Legislature, are responsible.

“They broke it, they own it,” California Republican Chairman Jim Brulte told delegates at the state party’s recent convention. “They want the 2018 campaign to be about Washington, D.C. And we’re going to make sure the 2018 campaign is about the Democrats’ abysmal record here in the state of California.”

That’s the political goal, at least, and a decent strategy given another cold, hard fact: The state Republican Party is dying.

The party has no statewide officeholders, has a super-minority in the Legislature, and can claim only 26 percent of Californians as registered Republican voters, just slightly above the 24 percent who prefer not to state a party affiliation and far fewer than the 45 percent who are Democrats.

In the next decade, Latino voters will make up the majority of California voters, but only 16 percent are now registered as Republicans. Only 23 percent of Asian Americans are GOPers. No household GOP names have stepped up to run for the U.S. Senate or governor next year. And, oh yeah, Donald Trump in the White House is about as popular as the drought to most California voters.

But the roots of this makeover go deeper. It starts with Assembly GOP Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley (San Bernardino County). This is personal to him on two counts. He grew up in Yucca Valley, where there is a higher poverty rate than in the rest of the state. He grew up knowing people who were struggling. And he was the son of an evangelical Christian pastor.

One of the first things Mayes did as Assembly leader last year was to take his fellow Republicans on a field trip to visit the St. John’s Program for Real Change, a shelter for homeless mothers in Sacramento.

“Your goal has to be on focusing on the people you serve,” Mayes told me Wednesday. “What tools do you have to help people survive? How do I make people’s lives better?

“California has the highest poverty rate in the country. You can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend that doesn’t exist,” Mayes said. “To me that is the No. 1 issue we have to face.”

So over the past few weeks, California Republicans have rolled out a series of ads on social media. They all basically sound like this, where a woman looks into the camera and says:

“Capitol Democrats have controlled California for decades. Their achievements? The highest poverty rate in the nation. That’s not an achievement. That’s unacceptable. California deserves better. It’s time to turn the page. And Assembly Republicans are listening.”

“Listening,” pollsters will tell you, is key in these days when voters are storming town halls because they think their representatives aren’t. And you gotta love that hashtag: #CADeservesBetter.

But this is more than a rebranding campaign. This week, Assembly Republicans introduced a 37-page plan of policy solutions called “Helping the Middle Class: Serving Those in Need.”

It is full of proposals — some have already been introduced as legislation — on how to pull the poor into the middle class. The ideas are the fruit of Republicans doing things that they haven’t in a long while — like working with unions on workforce training programs and antipoverty advocates on how to improve existing state programs. One of them is to get more general assistance money for people who have completed high school or two years of community college.

Mayes stresses that this is not about Republicans creating new government programs or abandoning their core conservative principles. It is about making existing programs work better. It’s about putting more of the state’s general fund toward infrastructure. It is about doing something other than saying no.

And, “some of the proposals would help,” said Alissa Anderson, a senior policy analyst for the nonpartisan California Budget and Policy Center. “We could build on these even more. But it is good when more people are talking about poverty in California.”

Orange County state Sen. John Moorlach told me Republicans are trying to do what Democrats have long bragged about doing.

“We’re saying, ‘If you’re the party of taking care of the least, the lost and the last — you’re failing,’” Moorlach said. “If you’re the party of good infrastructure, you’re failing. If you’re about affordable housing, you’re failing.”

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


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