“Did a CAGOP consultant really call the FBI on Steve Frank’s campaign manager?” the incoming text screamed. Accompanied by the text was the article from Right On Daily.
I’ve been around politics long enough to know a sensational headline when I see one. But I also know how a Steve Frank rumor can percolate. I proceeded to find out what really happened. It turns out he did make a credible threat against this consultant. Without getting to into it – she called the local sheriff, who called the FBI, who came to pay him a visit, and resolved the issue.
Ironically, it’s this bombthrowing style of his and his campaign that both ignited the concern of a threat, and is making hay off it.
For those who don’t know, Steve Frank is a blogger and radio show host here in California. He doesn’t actually run any campaigns. Instead he’s made a name for himself tilting at the windmill of the CAGOP. He ran against Jessica Patterson for CAGOP chair twice. He first ran in 2018, where he got about 15% of the vote. At that race, he also lost to the more charismatic Travis Allen, who got 30%. This year he exceeded my expectations, getting 35% of the vote, running alone against Jessica.
In my few years of being active in the CAGOP, I’ve had to deal with many rumors about the party. Generally, they trace back to him and his show. As you can see from the above article, this latest election saw another flurry of them. Let’s take a look at them.
“The fix was in.” – yes, in a party, or any election, people discuss among themselves who they want to vote for. They make alliances, friendships, and commitments. Most of us were committed to Jessica. She exceeded our expectations, kept the GOP messaging tight, and was able to bring our party back from the brink. We flipped several seats thanks to her.
Steve Frank’s platform, on the other hand, was based on the idea that the GOP was losing because we’re not conservative enough. This indulged rank and file frustration with what happened to Trump, and overall frustrations with California and national politics. Such indulgence has no basis in reality, it isn’t healthy, and leads only to the finger pointing. I’ve heard his supporters call Jessica “the devil” and call her main support grifters. Last week I got a mailer trying to associate her with Project Lincoln. I don’t feel the need to honor that with a response.
“Overpaid consultants wasting our money” – Consultants are like lawyers. A good one is worth their weight in gold. The staffers and consultants I’ve dealt with at the CAGOP are all highly competent. They not only understand polling and data – they understand the message we need to win in California. Trump cheerleading does not swing voters in our favor. What wins is championing the issues he championed: standing up for small business, public safety, clean streets, rule of law.
People look at the public donor data and see $30 million coming into CAGOP coffers and think “where does it go?” This is unfortunately the kind of debate that’s hard to answer without revealing trade secrets. But the basic fact is this: CA is a state of 40 million people, with several hundred races to look at in any year. $30 million doesn’t go very far at all. It can only go to the most competitive races.
The idea that CAGOP, and especially local county parties, siphon it off to dubious causes is a flat out lie. Anyone who works with party treasurers will testify to this. I know for a fact that left to our own membership donations, Los Angeles GOP would not be able to function.
Such accusations of wasted money find an audience in aspiring candidates, who complain that the state party doesn’t give them any money. In my experience, those complaining can’t raise any money themselves. Raising money is not a difficult prospect. Any GOP candidate immediately has the GOP brand behind them. This in itself raises money. We’ve seen first time candidates in uncompetitive districts raise millions, all on their own.
CAGOP offers plenty of non-monetary support to candidates at both the county and state level. In my experience, this is worth more than money – it gives candidate the tools to raise competitive warchests on their own. Jessica herself built a name doing just this, with her Trailblazers program. People who don’t take advantage of this kind of help don’t deserve money. To paraphrase Alec Baldwin’s famous speech from Glengarry Glen Ross, “giving it to you would be like throwing it away.”
I’ve seen a couple of campaigns where this was more of a gray area. The candidate could raise their own money, but wanted CAGOP money without taking their advice or help. Hey – there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Behind this and all the other rumors that trace back to Steve Frank, he manipulates such tensions to cast aspersions at the CAGOP. I generally ignore people like Frank. But after the past election, when frustrations are high, people get seduced by his brand of shock jock rhetoric. It’s those I want to address.
We’re all frustrated – especially those who’ve logged countless hours on the phone and pounding pavement for our candidates. They helped get candidates like Mike Garcia, Michelle Steel, and Young Kim elected to Congress. Except it wasn’t Steve Frank’s messaging or coordination that got them elected. It was Jessica’s and the CAGOP.
A Steve Frank election to CAGOP chair would have destroyed this messaging. It would see the party revert to talking points which may resonate with hardcore Republicans, but few others.
Contrary to Steve Frank’s main claim, CAGOP is not losing. We flipped seats in 2020, Newsom’s recall is imminent, and we’re set to flip even more in 2022. CAGOP is at a unique position to make major gains in this state. But we must remain focused and not look for scapegoats for our frustrations. We must understand the issues that swing voters in our favor. Steve Frank does not champion or represent these ideas. This is not conspiracy, it’s not the money talking. It’s an honest assessment made by plenty of loyal, hardworking volunteer Republicans in this state. Enough to re-elect Jessica Patterson as their chair.
Our door is always open to discuss these issues and more with those who would support Steve Frank. It’s our hope they do the same. We need to defeat the Democrats to save this state. Not each other.