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ABOUT SHAWN STEEL

Shawn Steel is the Republican National Committeeman from California. He is a past Chairman of the California Republican Party and the Founding Director of the California chapter of the influential pro-taxpayer group, the Club for Growth.

Mr. Steel was also an early supporter and key driving force in the 2009 historic election of Michael Steele to the position of Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

A long time fixture in the California Republican Party, Mr. Steel was elected National Committeeman in February 2008. Mr. Steel defeated incumbent Tim Morgan in what was viewed as a major triumph for Steel's message of reshaping the Republican National Committee into a more effective and open party organization.

In 2001, Mr. Steel was elected as Chairman of the California Republican Party, where during his four year tenure, he organized and pushed the historic recall campaign against then incumbent Democrat Governor Gray Davis.

Mr. Steel also served as California Republican Party Vice Chairman from 1999 to 2001 and Treasurer from 1995 to 1999.

An attorney from Palos Verdes, Mr. Steel has written articles published in every major newspaper in his state.



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Commentary

California’s party-switchers miss the vote

Shawn Steel Jul 24, 2014

California politicians who’ve abandoned the Republican Party haven’t fared well in recent elections.

Even in a one-party state like California, voters don’t trust politicians who experience a convenient political conversion. At the state and local level, party-switching candidates have lost primary, general and special elections they might have won if they’d stuck with the GOP.

First up: the golden boy and would-be mayor of San Diego. As chairman of the California Republican Party in the early 2000s, I appointed Nathan Fletcher to serve as the state political director. A good-looking, charismatic Marine, Fletcher had his political career all mapped out. He started at the state party, served as an aide to a congressman, married an influential Bush staffer and eventually won a spot in the state Legislature.

Karl Rove, Pete Wilson, Meg Whitman and Mitt Romney all endorsed his 2012 campaign for mayor of San Diego. But the local party saw past the name-brand Republicans and endorsed a blunt-talking, pension-reforming city councilman. Without the local party’s support, Fletcher knew he couldn’t win, and so, in the middle of his campaign, he re-registered decline-to-state.

Within six months of taking office, San Diego’s sexual-harassing Democratic mayor resigned, and Fletcher was back again for the special election — this time losing as a Democrat. Turnout was identical in both races, with nearly a quarter million votes cast. Fletcher’s party-switching netted him 416 additional votes, a difference of nine hundredths of one percent. Had Fletcher stayed a Republican, his 2012 primary loss would have left him the party’s heir-apparent, a spot filled by now-Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

One hundred miles up the California coast, former NFL star and businessman Damon Dunn didn’t fare much better in his bid to be mayor of Long Beach. In 2010, Dunn received glowing profiles from national conservatives in his Republican campaign for secretary of state. The rising star, according to the conventional narrative, was helping Republicans appeal to African-American voters.

Three years after sharing his “inspirational story” with Sean Hannity, Dunn announced that he, too, had switched to decline-to-state, just before launching his campaign for mayor of Long Beach. This June, Dunn lost the mayor’s race by just 4 percent to Councilman Robert Garcia, who at least had the foresight to switch parties in 2009. Had Dunn remained a Republican, he’d have been able to brand Garcia as the unprincipled party-switcher in the low turnout mayoral race.

The most disappointing party-switch might be Dan Schnur’s failed campaign for secretary of state. A longtime Republican spin doctor, Schnur served as a spokesman for Republican Governor Pete Wilson and U.S. Senator John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. After a stint as chairman of the state’s political watchdog, he switched to decline-to-state.

In the June 3 primary for secretary of state, Schnur outraised his Republican opponent by a 10-1 margin. He received so much favorable press that a former Los Angeles Times political reporter dubbed him “the favored candidate of our state’s political media.” It resulted in a disappointing fourth-place finish, behind indicted Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee, who stands accused of bribery and weapons trafficking. Had Schnur remained a Republican, he’d have easily made the runoff and would be Republicans’ best opportunity for a statewide win, a role now filled by Pete Peterson.

Only one recent party-switcher has been victorious in California, and it’s the exception that proves the rule. Deputy District Attorney Carol Rose, a delegate to the 1996 Republican National Convention, conveniently became a Democrat one month before launching her judicial campaign in Los Angeles County. Only the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, a small legal publication, bothered reporting on Rose’s party switch. It also helped that her opponent was former Assemblyman Charles Calderon, whose brothers stand accused of public corruption and bribery.

To be sure, it’s never good to have rising stars leave a party. And that’s why California Republicans, too, must learn from the failures of the party-switchers. In each case, the party-switch was driven by political expedience and occurred before or during a campaign.

California Republicans are talking more about expanding our base and appealing to minority communities that have long been turned away from our party. If that outreach stops on Nov. 4, we’ll fare no better than the party switchers who missed the vote.

Steel, a former chairman of the California Republican Party, is the state’s representative on the Republican National Committee.

http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2014/Jul/24/californias-party-switchers-miss-the-vote/


 

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