What happened to the celebrated “San Diego Model”? The premise of the San Diego Model is that endorsed candidates focus on messaging and communicating with Democrats and Independents, while the Republican Party of San Diego County (RPSDC) focuses on turning out the vote for endorsed Republican candidates.
One in three San Diego County voters is a registered Republican. Approximately 36 percent are registered Democrats and almost 26 percent opt to decline from stating a partisan identity. Republican registration used to be much higher, but voters started moving away from RPSDC in 2008. Why?
The Bush Presidency was taxing on our national brand. His big-spending ways drove limited government conservatives away. That and the wars drove libertarians away. New voters thought the Republican party was out of touch with the common man when the financial crisis hit.
Newer voters are increasingly registering as independents. While many registered as Democrats to support Obama in 2008, most voters under 30 think partisanship is a problem and don’t want to be a part of it.
RPSDC lost our volunteer chairman, Dr. Mary Rose Consiglio in 2008, less than a year after she was given the first ever Legacy Award. She was given this award for rebuilding the precinct operation from the ground up. The “San Diego Model” is, in fact, the legacy Mary Rose Consiglio created and today, she is no longer involved with RPSDC.
Prop 14 changed the game a bit. The push to non-partisan primaries was supposed to make elections LESS partisan; the opposite is true. The reaction was to focus on fundraising since there are no contribution limits to local parties. More money should have increased our communications with registered Republicans. Our strategy was to raise a bunch of money and rely on direct mail to registered Republicans. Abandoning the neighborhood volunteer precinct captain program however, limited our local, trusted communication efforts and contributed to the shrinking number of registered Republicans.
Cultural conservatives believe that RPSDC has turned its back on them by endorsing candidates who support abortion and homosexual marriage — two issues which the Republican Party platform has opposed for decades. I’ve met with a dozen cultural conservatives since the June election and, while I don’t believe those endorsements were made to alienate cultural conservatives, the endorsement process certainly did. Eight to ten years ago, cultural conservatives comprised the majority of our precinct captains. Last month, a chunk of them voted for a Democrat for Congress.
This is a problem. Whether RPSDC has officially banned the platform planks of pro-Life and pro-Family or not is immaterial (it hasn’t); perception is reality. RPSDC failed to provide an environment that welcomed the influence of an important group of people in the RPSDC coalition. They asked for candidate debates, they asked for RPSDC to delay its endorsement votes, and they asked RPSDC to stay out of the primary. We ignored all of those requests, made the process look rigged (it wasn’t) and eliminated an important voice in the debate.
RPSDC has some serious relationship repairing to do — relationships with people who have long supported our brand in words, thoughts, dollars, and deeds. Money isn’t enough to win elections. Passionate, fire-in-the-belly volunteers — evangelists about our brand — will.
We gotta get those people back and we have to change the way we do business for them to trust us again.
Read Part Two of “A Case for Changing the Republican Party of San Diego County” — The Neighborhood Volunteer Precinct Captain
Read the next part in the Series — Part 4: Rebuilding the Coalition