Steve Frank doesn’t believe that the California Republican Party needs a restart. For him, it hasn’t even gotten off the ground. Frank, publisher of California Political News and Views and frequent guest on talk radio shows across the state, is one of three candidates vying for the Chair of the California Republican Party at its upcoming convention in February.
In November 2018, the Republican Party candidates lost in a massive way to Democratic Party candidates, giving the Democrats a super majority in the California legislature. Frank lays the blame squarely at the feet of party leadership.
“In California we’ve done nothing, which allowed one voice to be heard, the Democrat voice, and not a Republican voice,” said Frank.
Frank, a Simi Valley resident who has been active in the GOP since 1960 supporting Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater and others, spoke to us from San Diego.
VCReporter: California has a history of embracing Republicans in certain ways — thinking not too long ago to Schwarzenegger, for example — what has changed?
Steve Frank: What has changed is that the California Republican Party has been silent for the last six years. They haven’t done any voter registration, they haven’t done any general public outreach, and they haven’t recruited candidates. On the last ballot in November, there were 41 legislative seats out of 153 without a Republican on the ballot. The party has been dormant. We raised $34 million in the last cycle and the chairman says that’s the most raised by any party in the country. I’ll accept that, and then he goes on to say the poor Texas Republican Party only raised $6 million. Well let’s see, for $6 million the Republican Party in Texas has two U.S. senators, all the constitutional officers, control of the House of Representatives, control of the State Senate. For $34 million, we didn’t even get a T-shirt.
Don’t you have to raise that kind of money to be even a little bit competitive?
No, that’s not true. You do have to raise money but what you have to do is spend the money properly, which is why Texas, with $6 million, did so much better than California with $34 million. If you don’t do any voter registration at all for six years, which is what the CRP (California Republican Party) did not do, well, you have to expect that you’re going to lose because you’re not registering people to vote for your candidate. We didn’t spend any money on harvesting absentee ballots. The democrats in Orange County alone harvested 250,000 absentee ballots, we did zero. I’ll ask you this: Can you name the Republican message in California put out by the Republican Party as to why people should vote for republicans in California in 2018?
There was none. That’s why you can’t. So if you don’t have a message, you don’t get the people to vote.
It seems like across the country the Republican Party has been winning. What’s the difference with California?
It started in 2010 with the passage of Proposition 14 by a man from the Bay Area, Charles Munger Jr., who does not believe in political parties. He passed Prop 14, the so-called Top Two. In the 2010 election only 5 million people voted on that measure, 3 million supported it, and now none of us get to have candidates. So if you’re a Libertarian or Green Party, you don’t have a candidate on the November ballot automatically because of Prop 14. You don’t get there unless no Republican runs and you’re in a district with only one Democrat on the ballot. Munger took over the California Republican Party, closed down our voter registration, closed down our recruitment of candidates for office, closed down our communications to the general public. He doesn’t believe in political parties and he owned the California Republican Party until very recently when he decided to drop out of politics because he already destroyed the Republican Party in California. As you know we only have 20 members of the state assembly out of 80, 11 senators out of 40, and only seven members of congress out of 53 and no constitutional officers, no senators. He’s done his damage and he can walk away having got his wish, the end of a political party.
Quoting you [from a forum held in December 2018], “Our leadership is just afraid of talking about the results of the president and instead, they’re very defensive about his words.” Trump is not popular here. How do you separate his words from his policies in a way that it resonates with California voters?
As you know, California has an extremely large Latino population and under Trump we have the lowest Hispanic unemployment in history; we have a large black population, under Donald Trump we have the lowest black unemployment in history; over 50 percent of Californians are female, we have the lowest female unemployment in history; we are safer now because he’s defeated ISIS and defeated terrorists across the globe; our trade is going to be much better because he has won the trade battles one by one on behalf of American businesses. Thanks to his tax cuts, the California public has more dollars in their pockets and there are more manufacturing jobs when the Democrats said manufacturing is closed in America, and you’d need a magic wand to create manufacturing. You didn’t need a magic wand, you needed a tax cut plan. What our Republican leaders need to do is stop whining about Tweets and start talking about results.
You’re from Simi Valley, you know what happened with Julia Brownley versus Antonio Sabato, Jr. He ran on a very Trumpian platform. Would you say he ran on his policies or more on the personality?
Antonio ran on the results of the Trump policies but unfortunately he was caught up as a lot of Republicans were with this absentee ballot harvesting, which the Republican Party refused to participate in even though it was the law, whether we like it or not, and so Sabato, Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy and others would have been much closer. Maybe Ronda would have won would it not have been for ballot harvesting but we didn’t do the job.
What you’re saying to me is resonating, but as you are very much aware we live in a very emotional time and using Antonio Sabato, Jr., as an example, I recall watching at the Republican National Convention on national television with him calling President Obama a Muslim. How do you separate your candidates from this rhetoric?
When your chairman doesn’t talk to the general public, doesn’t do interviews unless he’s forced to do so, you’re not going to get answers to that. The candidates need to understand that bigotry regardless of against whom, bigotry has no part in the political realm and certainly not in the Republican Party.
Do you think Republicans can win in California as long as Trump is in office?
Absolutely and the reason for that is, I’ll give you one good example. I bet on your desk or at your home right now you have a bottle of water somewhere, right?
I have a flavored water here.
Are you aware that Gavin Newsom wants to tax you on your water? That’s in his budget to tax water in the state of California. That’s just one example of the over reach of the Democrat [Democratic] party and that the Republican Party needs to point out to folks. Every time they see a bottle of water, they should be seeing a Democrat and a tax, and that’s our responsibility.
Is that going to take candidate coaching? Because like I said, what you just said is a good point, but if Antonio Sabato Jr. says what he says and then you say that, it’s going to get lost.
Exactly. And that’s why you have to have a chair who has experience as a public speaker doing media on a daily basis to make that case. Some people think I’m a little too flippant at times but I believe that it takes a direct message to get your point across. I consider the problems in the Republican Party like an addict and until we recognize what our problems are and admit to them we are never going to solve them. Look, you don’t know me, but I’m way too old to be subtle and those who do know me know I’m not a subtle individual. I go by the words of Harry Truman: I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell. That’s the type of aggressiveness we need in the chairmanship and in the leadership of the Republican Party.
From my perspective, I don’t know if it’s possible to divorce the idea of what Trump is and his Twitter from the policy. It’s all so muddied to me. Even if his policies made absolute 100 percent sense to me I’d still be lost by what he says on Twitter. Do you need to start over? Do you need something new and fresh?
In California we don’t need to start over because we never started. Your premise is that we need to start over and that means we’ve done things we shouldn’t have done. No, in California we’ve done nothing, which allowed one voice to be heard, the Democrat voice, and not a Republican voice. We don’t need to start over we need to start. With a message that is positive based on the positive results of the president’s policy, but all politics, as Tip O’Neill said, are local and that water tax is going to effect people more than a Tweet by President Trump. We need to make it clear that taxing our water is not a good idea. Gavin Newsom has a proposal to take away transportation money from Simi Valley if we don’t approve of his dense housing. If we don’t put up 20 story buildings for housing in Simi Valley, he wants to take away state transportation money and we need to fight that in Simi Valley and in Camarillo and in Chico and in Chino, the idea that the state of California will be the zoning czar of every community and that’s what he says he wants to do. Trump has a tweet about this or that, but what effects people is 20, 20-story apartment buildings in this town that they don’t want. I’m not too far right now from a city called Encinitas here in San Diego County, and the state of California is threatening to take over the City Council because the City Council and the voters of Encinitas have voted against high density housing in the community. The state wants to take over the zoning and permitting process to make the City Council just ribbon cutters and placeholders on the dais rather than setting policy and allowing the people of Encinitas who have voted twice now to say no to high density housing, to say your vote doesn’t count we’re going to tell you how to live. It’s that type of thing that effects people on a daily, visceral basis and we as Republicans need to make that case and we haven’t.
What is one thing the California Republican Party can do right now to better their chances in 2020?
Start voter registration, start getting candidates — today is the 14th of January 2019 — on Dec. 6 of 2019, which is less than 11 months away, filing closes for the March 3, 2020 primary and we need to be active today finding candidates, vetting candidates, training candidates and preparing a strong campaign for our candidates. We can’t wait until the end of February, we can’t wait until the summer of 2019. We need to start that today.
Frank will speak as a guest of the Channel Islands Republican Women Federated on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 6:15 p.m. at the Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club, 2600 Harbor Blvd., Oxnard. Tickets $30. For more information, call 805-266-7940 ext. 801.