Turning up the heat on Assembly Speaker Doris Allen, the California Republican Party agreed Friday to endorse an attempt to recall the Orange County lawmaker and lend the party’s name and financial clout to the effort.
The party’s board of directors voted 11-0 during a telephone conference call Friday morning to back the recall against the Cypress Republican.
Republican officials had originally said they would wait for a vote by the party’s 2,000 delegates at a September convention in Palm Springs before committing to the drive to dump Allen from office. Top Republicans have accused Allen of being a traitor to the party’s cause ever since she was elevated to the Assembly’s top post in June with the backing of only Democrats.
Party leaders said they dropped plans to bring the vote before all the delegates after hearing what they considered serious allegations against Allen during a GOP Rules Committee tribunal Thursday.
John Herrington, state GOP chairman, said party elders felt Allen’s behavior, including retaliation against Republican Assembly colleagues who opposed her, could jeopardize the party’s chances of controlling the lower house after the 1996 election.
Herrington also said party leaders felt immediate action was necessary to blunt “distortions” Allen has spread as she tries to avoid the recall. He pointed to a mailer Allen sent out to voters in her district recently that declared she was pushing the Republican agenda.
“There’s a terrible mixed message being given to Republicans in Doris Allen’s district,” Herrington said. “We need to square this away and get the facts out. The endorsement of this recall by the party will make a big difference. That’s one of the reasons we decided to act now instead of waiting until September.”
Officials in the Allen camp blasted the board for its decision to seek the removal of a fellow Republican.
“It’s just a railroad,” said Alan Hoffenblum, Allen’s campaign consultant. “It represents a small clique. What do you have? Eleven people voting? It doesn’t represent the 2,000 delegates of the California Republican Party.”
Hoffenblum said the recall is being driven by personality conflicts and political differences, not policy.
“What they’re all upset about is the way she’s administering the house,” he said. “It has nothing to do with public policy. They’re getting bills out that haven’t had a chance for years. They’re getting tort reform, they’re getting effective tax relief. And they’re tearing their hair out because of who she hires and fires.”
Meanwhile, recall boosters, who have collected 16,000 of the 25,606 signatures of registered voters in Allen’s district needed to qualify the recall on the ballot, were gleeful over the party endorsement.
“It’s great news,” said Jeff Flint, campaign manager for the Committee to Recall Doris Allen. “Beyond the obvious benefit of more campaign resources, it raises our credibility quite a bit. The voters look to the Republican Party for leadership, to provide direction, to give the stamp of approval. I think there were voters sitting on the fence and this will move them to our side.”
Flint predicted that there would not be an immediate influx of party help because recall leaders are confident they can wrap up their petition drive by late August or early September, a time frame that would put the issue before voters in early November. Instead, he said, the state party will likely play “a big role” as the election draws near.
Allen was elected speaker in June with the aid of 39 Democratic colleagues in the Assembly and no Republican votes, triggering charges of betrayal from party stalwarts, who saw their dream of controlling the Legislature’s lower house evaporate.
Last spring, the party poured $100,000 into the recall drive against Paul Horcher, which supplemented some $350,000 spent by other Republican groups. Elected to his San Gabriel Valley district as a Republican, Horcher declared himself an independent when he voted early this year to give Democrat Speaker Willie Brown the margin he needed to remain speaker.
Besides voting to condemn Allen on Thursday, the Rules Committee issued a stern warning to other Republicans in the Legislature who have backed her. At various times, Allen has been supported by five other Republicans, most notably Assemblyman Brian Setencich (R-Fresno), who serves as Speaker Pro Tem.
But the prime focus of the party’s ire remains Allen.
“I think the rank and file of the party feel that she is a traitor,” said Herrington. “Certainly the people in her district by our polling numbers feel that way. We’re showing very strong support for this recall, in excess of 60% in favor. I think Doris Allen is history.”
Herrington said the party’s endorsement of the Horcher recall helped whip up the signature gathering in that case, and he expects the same to happen with the campaign against Allen.
“When the Republican Party of California puts their seal of approval on something like this, it makes a difference,” he said.
Even so, Herrington said that he expects the party to go ahead and take up the issue in September at its Palm Springs convention. Allen supporters have said they, too, are eager to see the issue go before the party delegates and vowed to work hard to reverse the endorsement.