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Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio File photo
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Republican radio host chides California GOP party

ESCONDIDO — Conservative radio host Carl DeMaio did not mince words in critiquing the California Republican Party’s lack of engagement in San Diego County during the 2018 election cycle. 

The former San Diego city councilman represented District 5 from 2008 to 2012 and now runs the organization Reform California.

Speaking in front of The Escondido Republican Club during its monthly lunch meeting at Cocina del Charro in Escondido, DeMaio said the party as it exists today does not have a message or policy platform which resonates with California voters, particularly young people. 

DeMaio criticized the GOP for what he described as lack of providing strategic funding and campaign help for close races during the 2018 election cycle within San Diego County.

By prodding Republicans, DeMaio juxtaposed the state GOP with the Democrats, who he lauded for getting its base involved in day-to-day civic affairs. 

“You’ve got to hustle. You’ve got to take the battle into the streets,” DeMaio said. “And we see the Democrats doing this. My hat is off to what they’re doing because they’re actually doing what they should be doing as a political party … Point is, they are organizing … and so, we need to learn.”

DeMaio went further,  slamming the state Republican Party for what he described as poor spending habits in California during the 2018 election. He also said he has begun working on a solution to that problem.

“The Republican Party raised a lot of money, but a lot of that money went back east and it did not come back to California,” explained DeMaio. “And so one of the things I’m involved in is, I contacted large donors in California and I’ve said, you need to set up your own Super-PAC called Save California and you need to only donate to that Super-PAC. 

“So then, not a dime of that money goes anywhere but California because without those resources, we don’t have voter registration. And without voter registration, we’re not going to have that ability to go communicate and the turnout to vote on Election Day.”

DeMaio said that he believes that one key avenue for the state Republican Party is to make inroads on college campuses, which he believes have energetic students ready to interact with the political system in a rebellious manner. 

“(T)hese kids want to be rebels,” said DeMaio in pointing to focus groups results he has seen. “What’s more rebellious than being a conservative on a college campus? I want them to know, what does the left say? ‘We’re part of the resistance!’ Oh please, you’re part of the establishment. You control everything in the state. You’re not part of the resistance.”

Rather than relying only on electoral politics, DeMaio said he believes that issue-focused ballot initiatives could serve as a way to engage with prospective voters and reinvigorate a party which has largely become an afterthought in state politics. 

For his part, DeMaio has chosen to attempt to fend off the tax on drinking water in Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget.

“They made a mistake with the water tax. Gavin Newsom put it in his budget, he tipped his hand,” said DeMaio. “And so right now we have ongoing ads on Facebook and we’ve got all these digital ads running for 12 targeted legislators throughout the State of California. We call them water tax weaklings. These 12 Democrat legislators have not come out against the water tax yet, but if they do come out against the water tax, it’s dead. If we get three out of the four state senators that we’re targeting flipped, he’ll stop it because they need a two-thirds vote.” 

The high cost of housing is something DeMaio believes Republicans can champion as a cause in California. 

Normally thought of as a liberal project, DeMaio sees it as something Republicans can use as a means of pointing to a failure to act and produce results by Democrats in the state. 

“That is what I want all of us to hang our hat on. The cost of living crisis has hit California,” he said. “The Democratic supermajority has created it … We’ve got to make cost of living a rallying cry in 2020. It is something that will allow us to win Democrat voters and independent voters.”

DeMaio will speak next in San Marcos at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 4 at the St. Mark Country Club.