The Goldwater dictum
In two heavily Republican Assembly District Primaries, conservative divisions open doors for liberals.
William E. Saracino
“Let’s grow up conservatives. We want to take this Party back, and I think someday we can. Let’s get to work”
— Senator Barry Goldwater, withdrawing his name from nomination at the 1960 Republican National Convention.
Conservative political acumen will be tested in two Assembly Primaries June 6: those in the 59th and 77th A.D.s. Do conservatives have their act together? Or will they continue to allow internecine warfare to elect liberals in solidly conservative districts? These elections will tell.
The 59th district covers the San Gabriel Valley in L.A. County and the southwestern portion of San Bernardino County. Conservative incumbent Dennis Mountjoy is termed out. The candidates to succeed him are conservatives Anthony Adams and Barry Hartz, along with liberal Chris Lancaster. A long time activist in San Bernardino County, Adams has been campaigning hard for more than a year. His fundraising total is close to $400,000. He has the endorsements of tax-limits activist Lew Uhler, Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Club for Growth, and former CRP Chairman and CRA President Mike Schroeder. He is on most conservative slate cards. Coming from a “safe” district like the 59th, Adams as Assemblyman would no doubt become a conservative leader in the Assembly.
His main opponent is liberal Chris Lancaster. Recalled from the Covina City Council for ram-rodding an unpopular tax, Lancaster’s public employee union pals subsequently poured tons of money into electing him to that body again. Rewarding their largess, Lancaster opposed last year’s Prop. 75, which would have brought fairness and democracy to public employee unions. When the 59th district became open, Lancaster quit the Covina Council and moved to La Verne so he could run. His endorsement list is topped by the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO. They can be expected to open their checkbooks wide for him.
If this were the end of the story — a carpet-bagging union sock puppet running against a solid conservative — there’d be little to write about. Adams would win easily. But third candidate Barry Hartz has the potential to split the district’s conservative majority. Hartz, like Adams, is a solid conservative but started his campaign quite late and has limited fundraising potential. His $75,000 is only a fifth of Adams’ total. He holds the formidable endorsements of Dennis and Dick Mountjoy and the CRA, but little else. He has as much chance of winning as I have of getting that date with Nicky Hilton, but he could siphon enough conservative votes from Adams to nominate Lancaster. In this race, conservatives have a chance, by how they cast their votes, to show the state — and the union hacks — that they’ve moved beyond falling into such childish traps ... or that they haven’t.
A similar story is evolving in the suburban San Diego County 77th A.D., although the two conservatives — businessman Joel Anderson and charter school principal Debbie Beyer — are a bit more evenly matched. Beyer, endorsed by outgoing incumbent Jay La Suer, local Rep. Duncan Hunter, and Assemblyman Tim Leslie, had, at last report, $85,000 cash on hand. Anderson, who had about $150,000 on hand, is supported by state Sen.s Tom McClintock and Bill Morrow, Assemblymen Mark Wyland, and Ray Haynes; the CRA, the Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and the lion’s share of local conservative activists.
They are opposed on the ballot by two markedly less conservative candidates. As in the 59th, a conservative would easily win a straight conservative vs. moderate Primary, but Beyer is a potential spoiler. She is a valuable conservative worker, spreading the Charter School success story and educational-choice gospel, but ... between the two, Joel Anderson is of a higher order of magnitude. He seems to have been present in every noteworthy conservative cause or campaign in San Diego during at least the last 15 years. He is a tested, proven fighter who won’t wilt under pressure. Conservatives rallying in the Assembly will instinctively look to Anderson; Democrats seeking GOP defectors will waste no time talking to Joel.
Liberals cannot beat either Anthony Adams or Joel Anderson. Only conservatives can do that. Have conservatives heeded Barry Goldwater’s words? The returns primary night will tell.