Some of us may consider California such a reliably blue bastion that we tend to overlook what goes on there. But the fact is the state has a long history of electing Republican governors, from Reagan to Wilson to Schwarzenegger.
Something tells me that's not going to happen this time around.
Comparing illegal immigration to a war that threatened the United States' future, GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly once exhorted citizens to rise and join his fight to stop people from crossing the border, according to audio of a speech he gave in 2006.Putting aside for the moment the question of what mishap in his toilet training could spawn such grandiose pretensions in adulthood, Donnelly's 2006 musings, made while he was playing "Border Vigilante," have done more than roil the California GOP. They may have driven a permanent stake through its heart. A new Field Poll indicates that 34% of the state's likely Republican voters will vote for Donnelly, the "Tea Party" favorite, in the state's open primary. Donnelly leads the GOP field by overwhelming margins, despite trailing incumbent governor Jerry Brown by a breathtaking 40 point margin. If he wins the GOP primary--and it looks like that will happen--the two will square off in November. This has prompted abject consternation among the state's Republican establishment:
"I am a descendant of Jim Bowie, who died at the Alamo," Donnelly, then a leader in the Minuteman border-patrol group, said at a rally in Temecula that year. "It is rumored that he took a dozen Mexican soldiers to their deaths before they finally killed him. How many of you will rise up and take his place on that wall?"
[T]he California GOP continues to drift farther from the mainstream and is increasingly losing relevance as the state grows more diverse and more Democratic.
“This is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party,” said Larry Gerston, a political-science professor at San Jose State. “If Donnelly prevails, it indicates that the fiscal conservatives, the evangelical conservatives and the Tea Party conservatives control the party and leave Republicans with little opportunity to succeed in the long run.
Allan Hoffenblum publishes the California Target Book, which handicaps the state's legislative and Congressional races. He suggests "The Donnelly" will adversely impact many of the state's remaining Republicans:
“Donnelly has strong views on guns and immigration,” Hoffenblum said. “If he’s at the top of the ticket, it could do tremendous harm for people” like Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, who is locked in a tight race for re-election in his Central Valley swing district.Strong views indeed, for a state where Hispanics and Latinos make up 38% of the population.
In the 2006 speech, Donnelly painted an alarming picture of illegal immigrants' effect on the United States. They have caused the destruction of schools, the bankruptcy of hospitals forced to provide them free medical care and led the government to abandon its citizens, he said, asserting that the country was on the brink of a battle similar to the Civil War.Hispanics have been alienated from the California Republican Party since former GOP governor Pete Wilson's forceful advocacy for the anti-immigrant Proposition 187. Donnelly rose to the top of the GOP ticket after the campaign of Abel Maldonado imploded. While Maldonado, the well-regarded former Lieutenant Governor to Schwarzenegger, was not expected to win, he at least provided a credible attempt by the GOP to mend fences with the Hispanic and Latino community.
The notion that illegal immigrants come to this nation for a better life "is one of the lies," he said. "At least 20% are coming to commit the crimes that American criminals will no longer commit."
He paused as the crowd laughed, then continued: "Of that 20%, how many are rapists? How many are murderers? How many are child molesters? And how many are terrorists? We don't know."
That hope has been dashed.
Donnelly now leads all Republicans in the race to unseat the hugely popular Jerry Brown. On the one hand, I guess, that gives us a clear a clear picture of how dysfunctional the GOP party apparatus is in the Golden State. But really, are the pickings so slim that they need to field this guy?
Donnelly was cited two years ago at the Ontario airport after he was caught with a loaded .45-caliber handgun in his carry-on luggage while trying to board a plane.So we don't need to "wonder" what he thinks. We know the "descendant of Jim Bowie" thinks it's OK to bring a loaded handgun onto a plane. Because you never know when a Mexican might try to sneak aboard.
Donnelly was placed on probation and paid a $2,200 fine after pleading no contest to two misdemeanor gun charges.
"I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe that the right should not be infringed, and it ain't about whether you like guns. It's about whether you love freedom. And if anybody wonders where I stand on the Second Amendment, let them wonder no more."
Offered the chance to revisit his remarks, Donnelly instead doubled down on them this week. His rationale?
"The truth is, people will respect you if you stick to your guns," Donnelly said in an interview Tuesday night at a Republican event in San Francisco.For the Republican Party, that's apparently true no matter how much of an asshole you are.