Two days before the June 3 election, MaryRose Consiglio and Tom Sherman emailed a group of candidates running for membership on the San Diego County Republican Party’s Central Committee. “We are sure you have noticed,” wrote the married couple, “the many and various slate mailers that…[list] candidates — and you were not included.” Consiglio’s and Sherman’s names were not on the slate mailers either, despite their being incumbents on the Central Committee. On Election Day, the pair lost their seats, although they will finish their current terms, which end in December.
In the latest election cycle, five incumbent Republican Central Committee members were defeated after not being listed on the slate mailers sent out in their state assembly districts. “The people who got thrown off were not the deadwood,” says Laura Sumrall, who was reelected to the committee from the 66th District. “They were the activists who were doing things, the people with clout, and I’m guessing that the committee chairman was threatened by that.” Sumrall says her name appeared on some of the slate mailers in her district, but not all.
Many Republicans and Democrats don’t know that they can vote for some of their party’s Central Committee members, or even that Central Committees run the Republican and Democratic parties locally. The committees perform a variety of functions, which include recruiting candidates, raising money, helping shape the party platform, registering voters, and supporting rallies for the party’s candidates.
Membership on the San Diego County Republican Central Committee is divided into two groups. Ex officio members are appointed by Republican congressional, state assembly, and state senate officeholders or past candidates for the offices. The committee has 17 ex officio members. A second group of members is elected in the general election by registered party members. There are six of them from each of San Diego County’s eight state assembly districts. At the start of every two-year term, the committee reconsiders its bylaws and selects an executive board, including the party chairman.
Tony Krvaric is the current chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party. In spring 2007, he succeeded Ron Nehring, who became the California Republican Party chairman. The party’s San Diego website says the following: “Born and raised in Sweden, Tony Krvaric was inspired by President Ronald Reagan to come to America.…
“After becoming a naturalized citizen in June of 2003, he decided to become politically involved. Having seen, first hand, the devastating effects of socialism in Sweden and the rest of Europe, he was determined to stand up for the traditional, conservative values that helped make America great.”
In April, however, the online newspaper Raw Story claimed that Krvaric cofounded Fairlight, “a band of software crackers which later evolved into an international video and software piracy group.” After that story appeared, Krvaric circulated an email explanation among Republican leaders. According to Raw Story, the explanation stated, “Apparently there is a hit piece floating around on me, ‘exposing’ my wild high school teenage years.”
Sources I spoke with on the San Diego County Republican Party’s Central Committee said they like Krvaric but that he has difficulty tolerating dissent. They suspect the chairman is responsible for placing the lists of Central Committee candidates onto the slate mailers that went out before last month’s election. For each of the eight state assembly districts, there were nine or more candidates. But the mailers printed six names, or complete district slates. It’s easy to see how the three or more left off the list in each case feel targeted.
Krvaric did not reply to my phone message asking if he were behind the Central Committee lists on the slate mailers. Members of the committee’s executive board haven’t confessed to anything either, according to Laura Sumrall, who thinks her close association with Steve Francis made them “a little cautious” of targeting her completely. (She opposed the committee on its endorsement of Jerry Sanders over Francis for mayor of San Diego.) “But the discussion of the Central Committee lists happened in a silent meeting the executive board members will all deny,” Sumrall tells me. “We have a mole who was sitting in the meeting outraged but kept his mouth shut and told us about it later. And a couple of them have slipped and said, ‘But, you know, you can’t have people on the committee who cause trouble and aren’t willing to work together.’ ”
Sumrall does not blame the targeting on ideological factions. “But I believe in free dialogue,” she says. “And Central Committee members should not be selecting each other.”
Camille Cowlishaw agrees, saying the targeting has resulted from a pure power play rather than factional purging. Cowlishaw is another incumbent Central Committee member who was not on the slate in her district. The slate prevailed on June 3.
“There are a few people,” according to Cowlishaw, “who would like to control everything, including Tony Krvaric. They want to have no dissent, no confusion about what they want done. They want everybody to get along and have the same idea and be on the same page. I can understand that to a certain degree, but there has to be some discussion. I am vocal in my opinions, though mostly outside of meetings. But I don’t think my views were anti anything.”
When I asked Cowlishaw how long she’s been a committee member, she was unsure. She volunteered at Republican headquarters before being elected for the first time. “I went there for many years without belonging to the committee,” she says. “I guess I’ve been on it now at least six years.
“I was terribly disappointed when my name was not on the list this time, because I felt I have worked really hard for the party,” says Cowlishaw. “I’ve been involved in politics long enough to know that this kind of thing happens, but my biggest disappointment was when I kept getting different mailers [she received six] and they were all the same. And I thought the senders must have talked to somebody in the office who planted those names. It’s not good if committee members are not elected by the people but are selected by their representatives instead. Since many people don’t know what the Central Committee is but know they have to vote, they use the slates. They’re not going to look everybody up; they’re just going to take the easy road.”