City Life: GOP vote pressure just another day in politics

On the floor of the U.S. Senate, at the desk of the clerk of the Democratic Party, is a sheet of paper that is prepared before each vote. The paper lists the day's pending votes and tells senators whether to vote yea or nay. The Republican Party does the same.

In fact, all over the country, every day, party leaders are telling elected representatives how to vote. It is standard operating procedure so that each party can ensure its agenda moves forward.

The practice is institutionalized via the party "whip," whose primary responsibility is to ensure that members vote the party line.

In Sacramento, Assemblyman-elect Allan Mansoor, the current mayor of Costa Mesa, will receive routine advisories on how to vote. On occasion, those advisories will be commands.

Locally, Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece was contacted by the Republican Party of Orange County and advised or told how to vote at the Oct. 26 City Council meeting on compensation packages for public service employees. What the party did was routine. What the party did not do was "bully" Leece, as some have claimed.

Party loyalty is as ideological as it is monetary. The two major political parties spend ridiculous amounts of money each year to get certain people elected. There is an understanding, whether tacit or obvious, that in return for the support — in return for funding a campaign — the representative is in debt to the party.

This arrangement is not new or shocking or surprising. It is the way politics in the U.S. has functioned for almost as long as the nation has been in existence.

Ideologically, the Costa Mesa union contract vote had consequences far beyond the city limits. Across the country, Republicans had made union contracts a political issue. Whether you, I or Leece disagree with that agenda is irrelevant. The party was simply doing what political parties do.

Leece overacted to the party's request to reject the contracts by publicly reporting that someone had told her clearly and directly how to vote on the pending compensation plans. Ever the maverick — Leece was going rogue when Sarah Palin was still a hockey mom — she decided to do the unthinkable and vote for what she believed was the greater good.

It is curious that Leece thought having the party leadership tell her how to vote was newsworthy. Political arm-twisting is common and is only one way to keep representatives in line.

And what of Councilman Gary Monahan? He's no Democrat, but he ratified the union contracts, too. If his arm was twisted, he has not reported it, and if he has been threatened with ouster from the party, he has not reported that, either.

What the GOP did is standard operating procedure everywhere, but what Leece did was inconsistent for someone with what used to be the toughest political hide in Newport-Mesa. The question now is not whether Leece will be recalled — she will not — or whether she will remain in the Republican Party — she will — but whether the Leece, Monahan and Katrina Foley votes to ratify the employee contracts will be the straws that break the back of the city's bleak financial situation.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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