Calif. GOP Offering "Most Diverse Ticket Ever"
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The state GOP candidates met hundreds of the most faithful Republicans this weekend here in San Diego. The California Republican Party held its three-day convention downtown, featuring the stars of the state election line-up. This was unabashedly a motivational meeting for the GOP. After several gloomy years, California Republicans say their party is energized. GOP leaders are praising the diversity of their top candidates and pointing to polls that say voters here and across the country are dissatisfied with incumbent Democrats. Here to tell us more about the Republican – California Republican Party’s fall convention is my guest, Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County. Tony, good morning. Welcome.
TONY KRVARIC (Chairman, Republican Party of San Diego County): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Now what were the highlights in your estimation of this convention over the weekend?
KRVARIC: Well, it was a opportunity for delegates from across the state and a lot of volunteers and activists from right here in San Diego to meet our statewide ticket up close and personal, and hear from them and see them and try them on for size and get motivated by the message that’s going out into the November election, which is talking about jobs, the economy, spending, taxes and debt. Those are the things that are foremost in people’s minds and that’s what our candidates were there to articulate their vision for California.
CAVANAUGH: What would you say was the theme or the rallying cry for the GOP this year?
KRVARIC: Well, the one thing that people are really excited about is that we have a diverse ticket, probably the most diverse ticket that we’ve ever had. We have two women at the top of the ticket representing the future, ladies that have created jobs and run companies, and then we have a Latino-American, Abel Maldonado running for Lt. Governor. And we have an African-American, Damon Dunn, running for Secretary of State. So it was a very diverse and exciting ticket and a united ticket, and people are excited about it.
CAVANAUGH: Tell us a little bit about the convention itself. How many people were there? Where was it? Was the weather good? That kind of thing.
KRVARIC: Well, this was a wonderful opportunity to highlight San Diego to the rest of the delegates. I think there was a – leaving the convention, there was a uniform agreement that all conventions should be held right here in San Diego. We were downtown at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. There were about 1400 delegates on the state committee, and we had about 700 registered, plus we had probably at least another 100 or 200 registered from right here in San Diego. You can attend as a guest. As long as you’re a registered Republican, you’re welcome to attend, attend the workshops, get trained, get motivated and try the candidates on for size.
CAVANAUGH: Now, the whole idea of like hammering out any kind of policy or anything like that wasn’t really, as I understand it, the message of this convention. The message of this convention was going into the November elections, get out the vote and pump up the energy. Am I right about that?
KRVARIC: That’s exactly right. The party itself does not formulate policy. The party stands for certain principles, which are embodied in our platform. The candidates themselves then formulate policy from that. So this was really an opportunity for – to see the candidates up close, get trained, get motivated, experience San Diego, hopefully come back – Hopefully, they spent a lot of money and we could use the sales tax revenue here from all those delegates but it was a training – Like I said, it was a training opportunity, it was opportunities for activists to network with each other, meet each other from across the states (sic). Many times these days, you know, we’re all connected on Twitter and Facebook, and some of those connections were made in person, face to face, for the first time, so it was a great networking opportunity and we left the convention excited and united.
CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Tony Krvaric. He’s chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County. And we’re talking about the State Republican Party Fall Convention that was held here in San Diego over the weekend. What lessons, Tony, do you think the Republicans have learned from the elections of 2006 and 2008 and how do you expect to apply that to the election cycle this year?
KRVARIC: Well, there’s no doubt that in 2006 and then, of course, in 2008 the Republicans received a drubbing and many – in many ways, deservedly so. The Republican Party had strayed from its core conservative, fiscally conservative principles and the voters revolted. They said if you guys are going to spend like drunken sailors or drunken Democrats, then, you know, we’re just going to go for the original. I couldn’t help the jab there. But, you know, we’re just going to go for the experts in that field. And so the Republican Party has learned its lesson, it’s coming back. We have to earn back the trust of the American people and that is that we’re going to focus on creating jobs, cutting the spending, reducing the debt, and being fiscally conservative. And that’s what the American people are demanding. Ironically, those things are exactly the things that the Obama administration, current administration, is not focusing on. They are regulating more, they’re taxing more, and they’re making jobs harder to create and they – they’ve wasted a trillion dollars on a bailout that’s created no new jobs. So the – there’s many – the administration is leading in one direction and our candidates are leading in another direction, and the American people will have a clear choice come November.
CAVANAUGH: How about the issue of diversity. You touted the fact that this is the most diverse line of candidates the state Republicans have offered to the electorate. Is that also part of this new vision that the state Republicans have?
KRVARIC: Well, I think our candidates are a result of a bottoms-up approach, candidates that throw their hat in the ring that are willing to run, that are dynamic and that can will – win the hearts and minds of the Republican primary voters will be, obviously, our nominees. And the Republican Party’s open to anybody who wants to get to the front of the line and represent our principals. I’m an immigrant from Sweden. I think we’re probably underrepresented in statewide candidates from the Swedish side, but we’ll work on that for – still have some work to do. But it’s a bottoms-up approach and these candidates won their nominations fair and square. The Republican Party is open to anybody who wants to represent our principles, work hard and work their way up the Republican Party.
CAVANAUGH: There was a lot made of being united at this particular convention, to the detriment of some of the more conservative Republican delegates who wanted to make a statement about the Arizona immigration reform law or other platforms that have to do with a more strict conservative Republican idea. Why is unity so important? And do you think some conservatives are leaving this convention a little disappointed?
KRVARIC: Well, I think any time you have a convention, obviously you’re getting candidates and delegates there who are the most passionate about the Republican Party. You’re going to have debates, you’re going to have even some internal disagreements. But at the end of the day, what we’re looking at here is a ticket on the Democratic side which represents the past, which is Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer that have been in politics for I don’t know how many centuries, certainly decades. And then you have, on the Republican side, two dynamic women that have created jobs, come up from the private sector, and represent the future. So the theme is really the relics of the past or the candidates and the California of the future, bringing us back to the California and the golden days that we had where we had – jobs were plentiful. That’s, you know, if Jerry Brown’s policies were working and those were a formula for success, then Texas would currently be in the dumpster and California would be the shining example of how things of a thriving economy – instead, it’s exactly the opposite. California has a job, unemployment rate that’s 2% higher than the national average and Texas has an unemployment rate that’s 1% lower. So I think we have a clear choice and that’s, at the end of the day, that’s what delegates are focused on, that’s what Californians will be focused on.
CAVANAUGH: One thing that California also has is a Republican governor. Was Governor Schwarzenegger at the convention?
KRVARIC: Governor Schwarzenegger was not at the convention and so this was really a focus on the current ticket and he didn’t want to take away from that. Clearly, we need to focus on Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, an entire statewide ticket. But one thing that kind of gets lost somehow and the one thing that we benefited from here in San Diego is that we had an opportunity to train a couple hundred extra activists and volunteers and drum up the energy right here in San Diego which will translate, certainly, into benefits for our statewide candidates but also will help our local candidates. As you know, the Republican Party of San Diego County is primarily charged with getting out the vote and getting Republicans elected on the local level. So this was a great opportunity for us. It was fantastic that it was held here, not in Los Angeles or Sacramento or Indian Wells where we’ve had them before. So it’s a huge boost to our local activists.
CAVANAUGH: When we spoke, when we did a preview of the Republican Convention, fall convention, here in San Diego, there was – We were talking about how highly the San Diego Republican Party is held throughout the state among Republicans. Did you get that feeling during the convention and tell us why, if this is so, you have that reputation.
KRVARIC: Well, we’re – in San Diego, we go by the principle operation permanent offense. We’re not going to let up on Democrats here in San Diego County. The Republican ideas are far superior of personal responsibility, lower taxes, limited government, those are the principles that this country was founded on, those are the principles – why I immigrated to this country and so many others. So we in San Diego are always on offense. We have an aggressive social media campaign here in San Diego County on Facebook and Twitter. We have our own YouTube channel. We’re beating the Democrats, I don’t know by what the order of magnitude – at least two to one, if not more. We’ve very active and we are – we helped to expose the Acorn scandal right here in San Diego and we will be recruiting volunteers. We have twenty – we need 2400 volunteers recruited by November. We’re aggressively doing that and keeping the – making sure that the Republican Party of San Diego County gets as many Republicans elected to local office because, as you know, that’s often a springboard to higher office and it’s very important to have that team, you know, starting out.
CAVANAUGH: Some watchers of this convention have noted the fact that there are actually, even though there is this theme of unity, there are actually differences between Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in their issues and in their ideas. And it was noted that they never actually appeared together during this convention. How unified, really, is the Republican Party?
KRVARIC: Well, I think you can always – you know, there are always pundits and navel-gazers that are, well, he didn’t stand there, and they were only six minutes apart instead of five minutes apart and reading all kinds of – There’s nothing to read into that whatsoever. Each candidate has their own campaign. Each candidates (sic) has their own strategy of how to get elected. And, of course, we give them the freedom to do that. The Republican Party of San Diego County or the Northern California Republican Party is not a enforcement mechanism of how candidates need to run their – this is not a police state. Ironically, we have relatively weak parties in this country and certainly in California in particular, so we’re proud of our candidates. They’re going to run their own campaigns on the issues that they feel that they can appeal to voters with but then at the end of the day the common theme is focusing on jobs, cutting the spending, reducing the debt and lowering taxes. That’s what creates economic success. That’s what America was built on. And that’s what the American people are rising up against them. You see President Obama’s poll numbers plunging. Just walking in here today, I saw that the strongly approve for President Obama is now down to 21% and the strongly disapprove is at, you know, 46% or whatever it was, so he’s really upside down. You see candidates running away from President Obama and, personally, I’d like to thank President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi for unifying the Republican Party in a manner and in a timeframe faster than anyone could have imagined.
CAVANAUGH: Now is that the line that Republican activists are going to be using as they try to get out the vote this year? What are the grassroots efforts going to be like as Republicans try to energize the electorate here in San Diego to go to the polls in November?
KRVARIC: Well, everybody knows somebody who either has lost their job or their neighbor lost their job or they had their hours reduced so the number one focus is jobs and you have not seen one thing out of this administration that truly creates jobs. You think about – talk about bailouts, you can talk, you know, they have regulated healthcare and bailout auto companies and so forth, but nothing that truly creates jobs in the private sector. I know we have jobs in the public sector but at the end of the day, the private sector’s what carries this country and what makes this country great. So jobs, jobs, jobs. And there’s an old saying, it’s the economy, stupid. It’s jobs, stupid. And this administration has not focused on it, at least not in any credible way. The American people are not buying it. I know the administration tries to take credit for all kinds of things. They even invent new terms like jobs saved, which nobody – no economist knows how to pin that down. But – So that’s the theme of our candidates, jobs, economy, spending, taxes and debt.
CAVANAUGH: Now as we go into this cycle of elections in November and we – you have your activists out on the streets, are we going to see people knocking on doors? Or going to have a lot of phone calls? What is your strategy?
KRVARIC: We believe in that there’s nothing that cuts through the clutter of television commercials, glossy mailers, radio ads, internet pop-up ads, nothing cuts through that as much as a volunteer in your own neighborhood from down the street. Hi, my name is Tony. I live two streets over on XYZ Lane, I’m here to encourage you to get out and vote. It’s going to be a close election and here are the list of endorsed Republican candidates. So when we go to do that, not only, of course, are we featuring our statewide candidates but we’re also featuring candidates here locally. Lorie Zapf for city council District 6 and Supervisors Ron Roberts and Bill Horn, and also local propositions. You know, the one thing that’s really motivating people here in San Diego is you have Proposition D in the City of San Diego, which is a slap in the face to every taxpayer which is suggesting give us more money, we can’t deal with the problem that we have. We’re not going to reform city pensions and, you know, give us another hundred million dollars a year out of San Diego city taxpayers. It’s an affront to every taxpayer, so that’s another thing that’s really motivating people. You know, you have a lot of statewide things going on but at the end of the day a lot that touches people are local issues and local candidates and in some ways it matter perhaps more who runs your local school board than maybe who is – who’s U.S. Senator. Those are all things very important but, at the end of the day, local offices are also critically important and that’s what motivates a lot of people.
CAVANAUGH: When it comes to motivating people to vote for another Republican for governor, do you find it a problem dealing with Governor Schwarzenegger’s record? In other words, you had an inexperienced politician who believed in job growth running in Governor Schwarzenegger and now you have another new politician who believes in job growth running in the form of Meg Whitman. How do you – how are you going to explain that to someone who just opens their door as you go around and say, hi, I’m Tony, vote for Republicans?
KRVARIC: Well, Meg Whitman has created jobs. Governor Schwarzenegger’s a great movie star, has some wonderful movies that we all enjoy and he’s – he’s now the termed-out governor. Meg Whitman has created jobs in the private sector, has a track record of doing so, and so does Carly Fiorina. So I think that’s really the difference, and when you compare that to Jerry Brown and you go back and you say, well, all the problems that we’re experiencing now, many of them can be traced back to Jerry Brown and that’s not a recipe for the future and that – we’re talking about the politics of the past versus the politics of the future. We’re very proud of our candidates and, again, it comes back to jobs, creating jobs. Who has the best vision and are we going to create more jobs by raising taxes, raising regulations, and driving more, you know, jobs out of California? You know, the only job that Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer are fighting for are their own. Everybody else fights for California jobs. Texas fights for California jobs. Nevada fights for California jobs. Arizona fights for California jobs. Our own politicians don’t fight for California jobs. Instead, they just think that business is an unlimited source of money, and you still have – we still have a budget stalemate in Sacramento and the Democrats on the – still don’t get it. They want to raise taxes and the American people are just saying no, no, no, and I don’t know how you can be that tone deaf to not realize that.
CAVANAUGH: During the primaries, the Republican primaries, the issue of illegal immigration was very hotly debated. And there was a lot of talk about how good the Arizona law was and whether or not we should provide services to illegal immigration. How much do you think that the candidates now are going to be speaking about illegal immigration and do you think that really serves the longterm interests of the Republican Party?
KRVARIC: Well, the Republican Party embraces immigrants. I’m an immigrant who came to this county. I’m a legal immigrant. I think what all Americans can agree on that we need to have a secure border. If we don’t have a secure border, we don’t have a country. I don’t know how else you define a country unless you can enforce its borders. That said, that is one important issue among many and our candidates are going to address that to the extent – but I don’t think – Currently jobs are the number one issue that Californians are focused on. Illegal immigration is a problem, it’s a problem here in San Diego. We need to address it and we need to start by sealing the borders or enforcing the borders and making sure that employers don’t hire illegal immigrants. I mean, we welcome immigrants. I’m an immigrant. And we just need to make sure other people do it legally. However, in this campaign, each candidate’s going to address that in their own way so you have Meg Whitman doing it one way. Carly Fiorina’s going to do it another way. And it’s up to the voters to decide.
CAVANAUGH: Well, congratulations on a successful convention.
KRVARIC: We had a great convention. We had a lot of time, a lot of fun time, and great activists got trained here in San Diego so, for the Democrats here locally, I just say watch out.
CAVANAUGH: Tony Krvaric is chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County. Thank you so much for being here.
KRVARIC: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: And if you’d like to comment, you can go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. Coming up, Padres, Chargers, and Aztecs, a sports update as These Days continues here on KPBS.