I want to repeat a couple things:
I know Jay Obernolte to be an ethical, honest man of integrity. I trust his judgement, but some things have been happening around him that give me pause. This is a report of insider machinations that needs to be made so that the rest of us understand what is happening.
On Tue of last week, I spoke to Mr. Obernolte on condition of confidentiality. He indicated that a few people had approached him about running for leader. I said nothing until He had started making calls and it got out.
Jay is extremely intelligent, successful in life and has an excellent work ethic. In short, he has the skill set to do the job.
All of the positive attributes I lavish on Jay Obernolte also apply to Melissa Melendez – the key difference between the two is that Melissa is a full-portfolio Conservative. Jay is not. Melissa is rumored to be looking at running for leader. If Melissa ran against Jay Obernolte and I had a vote – it would be extremely difficult to choose as it would pit a long-term high school friend I respect against a Conservative hero.
The Republican Caucus in the legislature is 25 members. You need 13 in order to get elected leader. At one point Vince Fong of Bakersfield had 10-11 lined up. It is alleged that Mr. Obernolte has 15 as of today, I believe the number is in the 10-13 range with a lot in flux. What I hope is that Vince Fong and Melissa Melendez are tapped by Jay for key roles in the team and they avoid a meltdown in the 8/22 Caucus meeting.
Events are leading me to believe that the “Leadership / Donor community” is rolling off of Chad Mayes and on to Jay Obernolte for leader. Either Jay locked up the votes and forced them to join in or there is an anointing going on. This will make it extremely difficult for Melissa Melendez or anyone else to get to 13, and this may also be part of the nexus for some of a few key pieces of evidence:
- CA GOP Chairman Jim Brulte, who has been lambasted for appearing to be defending Chad Mayes in recent weeks has now started making calls on Obernolte’s behalf. Was Brulte one of those that had talked to Mr. Obernolte about replacing Chad Mayes? (Update: Mr. Brulte indicated that while he did call legislators, he did not discuss Jay Obernolte or the leadership fight specifically)
- Mr. Brulte and Mr. Obernolte are indeed close, Brulte has flown several times on Mr. Obernolte’s jet to events or vacations.
- It is alleged that Chad Mayes will be “passing the baton” to Jay Obernolte – by stepping aside and asking his leadership team that have not committed to Jay to commit to him. (This may have already happened, contributing to the estimated vote count of 15)
- David Stafford Reade, a key lieutenant in the leadership team was the maker of the motion on the Yolo GOP last night (8/7/2017) to endorse the removal of Chad Mayes as leader. This suggests that the donor community has also pivoted with Mr. Brulte away from Mayes and onto Obernolte.
- It is alleged that Jay is making deals with individual members for their participation and support. This is smart politics.
I have ripped on Chevron incessantly for their lavish spending on liberal Republicans as a part of the small crew of large donors. They and other Oil Companies popped up with large amounts of money donated during the run up to the cap and trade disaster.
Three other Assembly lawmakers who are not typically swing votes also received more than $10,000 from oil interests. They are Democrat Blanca Rubio, who backed the deal, and Republicans Jay Obernolte and Vince Fong, who opposed it.
While the money concerns me, it is standard fair for industry to lobby and spread cash out during major bills. Seeing arch-conservative Fong and Mr. Obernolte bring in similar amounts of Oil Money concerns me less. I was indeed told by an oil man that the oil industry dodged a major bullet with the Cap and Trade bill – don’t worry, there is always next year for the democrats.
I have several questions for an Obernolte leadership tenure:
Since Jay has been with his wife since I first met him in 1985 (she was his girlfriend then), I know that the recent string of Republican leaders who have used the CA GOP as a dating service or their position of government power as a mating/dating service will end with Jay as he is a faithful man. Will Mr. Obernolte enforce some sort of personal discipline standard on his team?
Joe Justin is one of the best campaign consultants I have ever met. Working with him on the Bill Halldin Campaign was one of the best experiences of my career as an operative. I’d recommend him to anyone who wants to win election.
However, I have been fiercely critical of his part in the drill for the cap and trade deal, his potential conflicts of interest and his very liberal ideology for a Republican. There is another man by the last name of Zimmerman that appears to have a similar pedigree within the capitol staff (he is not a campaign guy in addition like Joe is). Zimmerman was brought in after disgraced former permanent minority leader Kristen Olsen purged all of the old-school conservatives and brought in new, inexperienced younger caucus staff.
Will Jay Obernolte bring in new staff that are Conservative Republicans who are dedicated to their jobs (aka free of potential conflicts) who will give good solid advice to the Assembly Republicans, or will the Kristen Olsen staffers continue?
Will Jay Obernolte allow the “One-Ask-Program” to be dismantled as Chad Mayes had threatened to do on his way out the door? Will Mr. Obernolte keep it in place, thus securing 80% of the CA GOP’s budget for several years to come? (This, by the way is why “leadership” has so much influence in the CA GOP) Will Obernolte figure out another arrangement to keep the CA GOP solvent?
What will Jay Obernolte’s role in CAGOP leadership be? Who does he support to replace Kristen Olsen, Jim Brulte? What does he do to rally the demoralized and enraged grassroots?
I am going to finish this update by saying that I trust Jay Obernolte as a man. I am concerned that some around him could manipulate him in to a similarly destructive course as happened to Chad Mayes.
He has the skill set and the potential to be extremely effective for the California Republican Party and I am cheering for him to succeed.