Nonpartisan primary could put GOP tax pledge to the test
At least five viable GOP contenders for the Assembly have refused to sign the pledge that has been sacrosanct for Golden State Republicans for decades.
The creation of more centrist districts and the end of the party primary system have given candidates — and special interests — an incentive to move toward the political middle. In several contests, the business groups that typically back the GOP have turned away from rock-ribbed conservatives, throwing their support to pledge-free Republicans.
For example, in the 74th Assembly District, business interests are backing Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who has rejected the pledge, over incumbent Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa).
Just a few votes could change the dynamics in the Capitol. All of California's sitting GOP Assembly members and all but two Republican state senators have signed the pledge, which is issued, tallied and enforced by Washington, D.C., activist Grover Norquist and his group, Americans for Tax Reform. Republicans who violate it are targeted by a nationwide network of activists.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, blamed Norquist and other conservative activists last year for torpedoing his negotiations with Republican lawmakers to place a budget-balancing tax increase on the ballot.
On Friday, Jon Fleischman, who calls himself the "self-appointed enforcer" of the no-tax pledge, listed a tally of non-signers on his conservative FlashReport website: 27. That list includes candidates running for Congress and the state Legislature. He wrote that the pledge has never been more important as Republicans in Sacramento face pressure to support taxes to help close the deficit.
"Unfortunately, it only takes a few, voting with all of the Democrats, to cause much mischief," Fleischman wrote.
He had a final message for non-signing Republicans as they entered the final days and hours of the primary: "Feel free to contact us with questions — and by all means if you are one of the candidates listed here and you either think you have been placed here in error, or would like to sign the pledge, just let us know."
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, speaks at the Bloomberg Washington Summit in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. Credit: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg.