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As Trump leaves, Sacramento GOP becomes Black Box

Tomorrow on the final day of the Trump Administration, the central committee of the Sacramento County GOP is scheduled to choose its local leadership and discuss plans for the new year. It’s a pivotal moment for a local party that for the last four years has been sucked into Trumpism and continues to fall behind local Democrats.

However all requests for comment on this, current political events, or to provide the names of leadership candidates were largely rebuffed, leaving the appearance of a party shrouded in silence, secrecy and insularity.

Over the last two weeks, The Sacto Politico reached out to 20 of 30 members on the County GOP’s central committee who have a vote in Wednesday’s leadership elections. Only one agreed to answer even a few questions on the record. The rest avoided comment, including the group’s current chair Betsy Mahan, who turned down a request for a formal interview and ignored follow-ups offering to submit all questions in writing.

What this means less than two weeks after the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot and nadir of the Trump presidency is unclear except that the Sacramento County GOP has become something of a black box. Are most members hoping to stay the course with Trumpism? How many hope to decouple from him after four years watching Republicans lose control of the U.S. House, U.S. Senate and White House and become an extreme minority party in California politics?

And how will the local party address its local voter registration deficit that has almost doubled over the last decade from 10 points behind Democratic registrations to nearly 20 points behind?

This last question poses a major existential challenge for the local party. Consider that while the population of Sacramento County increased 10% since 2010 and added more than 200,000 registered voters in that time, the number of registered Republicans actually declined by 1,181. Even the once staunch conservative bastion of Folsom recently fell into swing territory.

This also comes on the heels of the party’s inability to recruit blue-chip local candidates to contest in prominent races. This included for Sacramento mayor and both of the county’s two main Congressional seats – Doris Matsui’s CA-6 and Ami Bera’s CA-7. On the Sacramento Board of Supervisor, Republican Susan Peters was succeeded by Independent Rich Desmond who worked hard for voters to know he was not running as a Republican.

Plus, the party’s endorsed candidate* against Bera was linked by multiple national media outlets to QAnon, failed to disclose according to his campaign treasurer more than $300,000 in campaign donations, involved himself in online racial profiling that led police to investigate a school field trip in El Dorado Hills, was publicly scolded by the daughter of Bruce Lee for racial insensitivity, and used a former strategist with one of the largest purported U.S. hate groups to train his staff and volunteers. Yet even after learning of most of these episodes, the County GOP affirmed its “strong support of his candidacy.”

Since no one inside the county party is talking, this leaves the group’s website as one of the few windows into the party, but if the goal is to rebuild the party’s numbers, it doesn’t seem a great look. Right before the Jan. 6 riot, the site featured a link for visitors seeking the latest news about the “massive election fraud” perpetuated against Trump. Next to this was a graphic trumpeting “FOUR MORE YEARS” for Trump, which at that point could only be achieved through un-Constitutional means.

Below this graphic (right) was an invitation to join Sacramento’s companion protest to the Jan. 6 D.C. rallies that turned into a violent insurrection. Organizers called the Sacramento event “Wild Protest West Coast,” and the County GOP website warned attendees to expect “detractors, intimidators and provocateurs” to attempt to silence them. (Police did arrest 12, but would not say how many were Trump supporters or counter-protesters.)

Elsewhere on the home page, a link was featured to Mahan’s Jan. 5 essay titled “January 6th Will Be A Day For The History Books.” The piece did not specify what history would be made, but she did ominously claim “Biden and his supporters are pushing through” by “any means necessary” a fraudulent “fait accompli.”

Later in the piece, Mahan falsely claimed no court had yet to dismiss any of Trump’s lawsuits for a “lack of evidence,” only on technical grounds. But as has been extensively reported, judges ruling on more than 60 dismissed Trump lawsuits variously cited a lack of evidence, being “frivolous” and “without merit” as cause for dismissal.

She next wrote, “We need to know if the Dominion [voting] system is a pay to play operation,” even though no evidence exists to support this conspiracy theory. Even conservative news outlets such as Fox News, Fox Business and Newsmax have all backed off the claim.

Mahan also warned, “If the laws are not going to be enforced, then it’s a wild west election in ’22.” Perhaps this was just loose terminology, but the term “wild west” is generally understood to mean violent lawlessness, which was exactly what was seen in D.C. on Jan. 6.

Following the riot, Mahan did not take her essay down. Instead she added a prefatory update in which she joined “with the President in condemning the tragic violence at the Capitol.” But she also appeared to engage in “what-about-ism” by suggesting protests of Brett Kavanagh’s Supreme Court nomination were much larger and equally worthy of review. This she doubled down on in her Jan. 12 essay inaccurately claiming an even larger “mob” had “taken over the Senate building during the Kavanagh hearings, or tore down statues, or burned and looted businesses.”

A natural question exists whether this kind of rhetoric captures the sentiments of most members of the County GOP and its leadership. For what it’s worth, I also heard a similar “what about-ism” from the only member of the central committee to speak with me. (I have withheld this individual’s name so as not to penalize that person for his/her courtesy and forthrightness.)

The individual was quick to denounce the lawlessness of the D.C. Riot, but when asked whether the episode could blacken the GOP’s reputation, he/she said, “No, no. If that were to give the Republican Party a black eye, what about the billions of dollars across the country in property damage, fires, thefts that the Democrats didn’t have a negative thing to say about at all.”

What other members of the central committee think of all this remains unknown. It’s possible the following email reply to me from another member might speak for at least some of them:

“I appreciate the invitation to go on the record, but I'm trying to keep a low profile for most of 2021.”

Of course, it’s the right of every GOP central committee member to keep close counsel and let the party speak with one voice whenever it may be ready to say something. So we will wait to see what the Sacramento County GOP shares after Jan. 20 about its officers and direction moving forward.

* founder and editor Jeff Burdick ran in the March 3rd Congressional primary as a first-time candidate against Bera, Patterson and two other candidates. Burdick is a trained journalist, and six months after the primary election, he returned to this vocation by starting The Sacto Politico.

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