Caronistas prevail over a broken OC GOP

I had a feeling when I showed up to tonight’s Republican Party of Orange County Central Committee meeting that the Caronistas were going to get their way and obtain an endorsement of their candidate. They did – but in the process they tore the Central Committee asunder. I hope they are happy with the sorry results.

I also ran into Carona’s PR flack, Jon Fleischman, as we walked into the lobby of the Irvine Hyatt Regency. “Why do you say bad things about me?” asked Fleischman? I told him it was just politics, but by the end of the evening I had a better answer for him – “because you and your ilk sicken me!”

The crux of the meeting was a motion presented by the Central Committee endorsement committee – you know the one that features Caronistas Fleischman and Mike Schroeder – the same two guys who refused to recuse themselves at their endorsement committee meeting, instead voting in favor of their candidate and ultimately asking the Central Committee to reconsider their request to endorse Carona.

The endorsement committee met last week to consider a letter of complaint written by Carona political consultant Matt Holder. Whitacre was notified on a Friday afternoon about the Monday meeting, and as such he had very little time to mount a defense. At the meeting he was given all of six minutes to refute the two pages of charges.

Whitacre maintained all along during Monday night’s Central Committee meeting that the matter should have been investigated by the party’s ethics committee – but he was rebuffed at every turn. He also published and distributed an amazing packet of information that effectively answered all the charges against him – but it was all for naught. The packet was one for the ages – it included:

1. A personal email from Santa Ana Chief of Police Paul Walters indicating that he was pulling his endorsement of Carona – an endorsement he was forced to make, many believe, by Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido.
2. A letter from Santa Ana Councilman Mike Garcia, indicating that he knew nothing about the Walters endorsement.
3. An email from Santa Ana Councilman Jose Solorio rebutting a diatribe that appeared in OC Blog. He, like Garcia, also indicated he knew nothing about the Walters endorsement.
4. A media advisory dated March 20, indicating that a judge had deniged Carona’s emergency request to strike a ballot statement sentence written by his opponent, Bill Hunt.
5. A letter from Lewis K. Uhler of the National Tax Limitation Committee, indicating that Carona did indeed oppose Prop. 75, up until a month before the election. Hunt on the other hand supported it all along. Uhler was not aware of any attempt by Carona to make public his alleged late support for Prop. 75.
6. A letter from Oscar Garza, a Latino Republican who ran for the Santa Ana School Board, indicating that he sought Carona’s endorsement but was told that the supposedly Republican Sheriff was instead supporting MECHA member John Palacio, because they “go back a long time from Boy Scouts.”
7. A flier from the Palacio campaign showing him shaking Carona’s hand with the Carona quote “I endorse John Palacio and urge his re-election.”
8. A flier asking voters to vote against the recall of Santa Ana School Board member Nativo Lopez, with a picture of Lopez and Carona, and the text: “Sheriff Mike Carona supports Nativo Lopez.”
9. Another flier with the same picture and Carona endorsement of Lopez.
10. And another one.
11. And another one – this one with a different picture of a seated Carona and a gloating Lopez.
12. And the front page of Lopez’s newspaper “Union Hispana” featuring a full cover picture of a smiling Carona shaking Lopez’ hand. The picture also included text indicating that Carona was opposed to the recall of Lopez.
13. An O.C. Register article indicating that Santa Ana voters received calls asking them to vote against the recall of Nativo Lopez – the calls were allegedly made on behalf of Carona, even though Fleischman denied any connection, of course.
14. The packet closed with three pages of Carona misdeeds.

The meeting lasted way too long, as the Caronistas repeatedly denied motions that ran counter to their goal. I was particularly disappointed that they did not allow secret balloting to take place. There was a lot of pressure from leading county Republicans, including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, to support Carona. He actually got up and said that Carona helped to fight illegal immigration. I wonder if he meant the same Carona who was pictured shaking Nativo Lopez’ hand in the above-referenced packet? Rohrabacher also said that we need to look past the mistakes made by Carona as no one is perfect. I guess Jack Abramoff’s best friend would know all about that.

In the end, the Caronistas barely won the 2/3 majority vote they needed. I was very proud of those who stood against the machine – and I took note of the voters who stood for Carona, and the speakers who defended him. I was shocked in particular that Kathy Tavoularis, a member of the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger campaign, took sides, standing up to defend Carona. That won’t help her or Schwarzenegger in Central Orange County.

It should be noted that Otto Bade, a past candidate for the 69th Assembly District, showed up to the meeting and voted for Carona. Whitacre refused to support the Bade campaign after it sank in one scandal after another (sound familiar?). Bade finally got his revenge.

Wiley Drake, an outspoken minister from Buena Park, immediately resigned from the Central Committee, after the vote, and told those in attendance that he would be leaving the GOP – a party he has belonged to since 1964. Lupe Moreno got up and also resigned from the Central Committee. Tim Whitacre picked up his materials and walked out, and many of us followed him. Jon Fleischman, on the other hand, was later seen in the hallway smiling broadly while chatting with John Lewis, Carona’s consultant.

The whole meeting was a sham, and the net result will be that most GOP activists in central Orange County won’t be working with the OC GOP anymore. Indeed, once they start touting RINO Lynn Daucher in the 34th State Senate District, they will lose even more support. What a mess – and all for Carona, a guy who only panders to the party when it suits his whim.

Dr. Jo Ellen Allen tried, at the end, to say a few nice words about Whitacre, but he would have none of it – and I don’t blame him. When I had the chance to speak to the Central Committee members tonight I reminded them that Whitacre led the effort to recall Nativo Lopez from the Santa Ana School Board – but that effort was only necessitated because Carona helped him to get elected in the first place. Tonight Whitacre was crucified and Carona was handed an illicit endorsement. This action will tarnish the OC GOP forever. Their new logo ought to be a rotten orange.

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.