I witnessed a remarkable political event last night. The Orange County Republican Central Committee (OCGOP) denied its endorsement of a Republican incumbent, Rep. John Campbell. To win the local GOP endorsement Campbell needed a 2/3 majority of the elected central committee members. His effort fell short by just one vote.
The evening began with roll call, recognition for elected officials and extraordinary volunteers. Out of all the endorsements given out this evening, Campbell was the only incumbent facing a challenger – Republican candidate John Webb.
As you may know, John Webb is new to politics. He served in the United States Marine Corps and has been a California highway patrolman, and a police officer. In the private sector, John was a corporate executive with State Farm Insurance Company and currently owns and operates a successful insurance brokerage. Locally, John has become a favorite among Tea Party activists. I was honored, for example, when he asked me to be the keynote speaker at his upcoming fundraising event this Thursday evening.
Rep. Campbell spoke first. He stressed his role in warning about California’s budget crisis and the significant role he played nationally in fighting against earmarks. Campbell looked nervous and a little hyper-active with his edgy, scruffy beard. Next, John Webb spoke. Webb came across as calm, friendly, self-deprecating in his humility and honesty. It quickly became obvious, however, that the most vocal members of the crowd were rooting for Webb to stop Campbell’s effort to win the endorsement of the local Republican party.
Webb, in particular, contrasted his views with Campbells saying that he would have voted against TARP and against allowing gays to serve openly in the military. Graciously, Webb said that he did not want to attack Campbell. He merely said that he offered a different “skill set” that was more appropriate to the new conditions faced by the Republican party and warned that voters would lose faith in the Republicans if we did not offer candidates who held tightly to strong conservative ideology.
In the end, the OCGOP appeared divided over endorsing Campbell. A number of speakers, for example, expressed unhappiness that Rep. Cambell had not spent more time in the district and had only conducted one townhall event. Campbell sort of made things worse by suggesting that since he had more time to focus on issues as a member of Congress that he was the recipient of better and higher quality information than those in the audience who doubted the wisdom of his decisions.
In the end, OCGOP Chairman Scott Baugh asked the elected central committee members stand to record their votes and Campbell fell short of securing the endorsement. Campbell got 41 votes for his endorsement, but needed 42 of the 63 total votes cast. I have no doubt this will be big news around the nation tomorrow and that it will send a signal that plenty of people back home in Orange County are unhappy with Rep. Campbell’s performance in office.