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The Lockean Project

What I learned running as a Republican in California

What I learned running as a Republican in California

Santa Barbara News-Press Editorial, November 19, 2022

Peter Coe Verbica

Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you a story.  It’s not about Little Red Riding Hood or houses built out of straw.

But there are pigs and wolves.

I’m a fifth-generation Californian who grew up on a cattle ranch and went to MIT.  So I’ve looked back at the old and looked ahead to the new. I have training in real estate, law and finance. I work as an investment adviser and an investment banker. I have four daughters and am a baptized Episcopalian.

I have served on many nonprofit boards, though I prefer being on horseback. This year, I bucked the advice of many friends and ran as a Republican for the Board of Equalization.  I’m in District 2, which covers 19 counties that cling to the coast from the Oregon border down to Ventura County.

What’s the BOE?  It was created in 1879 to ensure that counties charged property taxes uniformly. It collects alcohol and pipeline taxes. Perhaps most unique to the Board is its Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate Office. Some want the BOE folded under the governor’s office. Those wary of consolidating power have argued otherwise.

As a “top two” candidate, I made it to the general election. To my surprise, I beat one of Gavin Newsom’s former hand-picked replacements. (He appointed her to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors when he jumped to his next gig.)

The good news? Our campaign bumped up the district’s California Grand Old Party’s percentage of votes by over 16% versus the last election cycle. They’re still counting the votes.

So far, 573,786 voted for yours truly – almost 2.5 times the number of Republicans in the State of Wyoming!

The bad news? I still lost decisively to a hard-left progressive. It makes you scratch your head and take stock.

Here’s what I learned, running as a commonsense Republican in California:

— Running for office is expensive.

Candidate statements and filing fees for the primary and general elections in California will set you back over $12,500. (That’s before you pay for a treasurer, buy lawn signs, web hosting, email service or social media.)

The state of California is a vacuum with an insatiable hunger for taxes and fees. Even for its elections.

Ask not what the California Grand Old Party can do for you. Ask what you can do for the CAGOP.

The CAGOP will provide you training but may not provide you dollars.  Many of the central committees need financial help getting their slates out.  So, as a candidate for a district office, expect to give rather than get.

— Sacramento’s bureaucracy thrives on complication. It’s job insurance.

Form 410. Form 501. Form 700. Forms, forms and more forms from Sacramento. The place lives and breathes bureaucracy.

Candidates are issued a handbook on the complexities they’re supposed to follow.  And, you’d better hire a treasurer so you don’t step on landmines.  The irony? Our tax money underwrites this political shop of horrors.

— Do not expect most of the traditional media to be fair in interviews.  Ever.

Despite sending the two large newspaper chains specific information related to what I planned to do to make the BOE better, none of it made the press. Despite discussing basic economic issues in a clinical way in two major media interviews, not a word was printed. So, don’t expect most of the traditional media to give you fair coverage.

Two worthy standouts which ARE willing to stand up to the Left: the Santa Barbara News-Press and the nonpartisan Opportunity Now Silicon Valley.

— It takes a lot of courage to run as an underdog.

Running for a statewide office as a Republican in California builds character.  Not just the ordinary kind.  More akin to what you might find in “Killer Angels”:  “The civilians have fled and the houses are dark.”

— True believers don’t care about the facts.

California is in a world of hurt. Highest gas prices in the country. Crappy schools. High crime. Highway off ramps sheltering drug addled zombies.  Terrible fire prevention practices on government-controlled land.  Billions voted on for water infrastructure but no new reservoirs. $105 Billion trains to nowhere.

Common sense candidates continue to hope a majority of voters will have an epiphany. The wisest, some observe, have already voted.With their feet.  Wagon trains of corporate HQs and middle-class Americans continue to head to Texas, Nevada and Utah.

The Leftists who stay? Many are true believers. The nihilists that Eric Hoffer warned us about in his seminal book that inspired Ronald Reagan to give him a Medal of Freedom.

God-fearing counties in California do exist — like Trinity and Del Norte — where I garnered a decisive majority of the vote. Heaven holds a special place for them. If Californians voted by acreage, I would have won.

— People will ask you questions completely irrelevant to the office you’re seeking.

As a candidate for the BOE, I found myself peppered with questions which have nothing to do with the office. Are you “pro-life”? Do you support Donald Trump? What is your position on vaccines? School curriculum?  Election integrity?

These have nothing to do with taxing practices or why the BOE is an important part of our state’s checks and balances.

— You’ll have little or no staff, so be prepared to be chief cook and bottle washer.

Delivering lawn signs? Updating your website? Writing out a speech?  Preparing ad copy? If you’re watching every nickel, chances are, you’ll be doing these things yourself.

If you want sympathy in politics, it’s a lot like Wall Street. Buy a dog.

— You’ll learn who your true friends are.

When you run for office, you’ll discover who your true friends are: who’s willing to endorse you, put up a lawn sign, or write a check.

I’m humbled and in awe over the encouragement and support that I received for my campaign. Our campaign had more than 95 donors. I was so amazed at the generosity that I wrote each donor a personal “thank you” note.

— Postpartum blues. After you’ve given a campaign your all, you may feel ready for a blood transfusion or a bender. I settled for a walk in the woods and a can of sparkling water. As they say, to each his own.

What did I learn as a Republican running for office in California? A hell of a lot, that’s for certain. Though it’s tempting to lament, I’ll just rather settle for old-fashioned gratitude.

In conclusion, I do have a confession.

One of my vices is collecting cowboy belt buckles. I have too many of them, but they remind me of rides and rodeos. They remind me of heading and heeling calves. They remind me of when California was freer and had less asphalt. I have one buckle dedicated to the proposed State of Jefferson. The double-cross “X’s” feature prominently in its design. Perhaps next time I visit Trinity and Del Norte, I’ll wear it.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”