A California Republican Party committee today blocked debate on a controversial resolution in support of Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law, drawing complaints from delegates who say Meg Whitman's campaign is seeking to stifle debate on a hot-button issue.
The resolution, which would affirm the party's support for the Arizona law and Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative to cut public benefits for undocumented immigrants, died in committee when none of its 12 members seconded a motion for debate. Supporters could still push for a floor vote during the Sunday general session of the CRP's semi-annual convention, but would need two-thirds approval for adoption.
Despite boisterous rallies and candidate speeches promoting party unity, tension between members of the conservative California Republican Assembly, whose president authored the resolution, and the Whitman campaign have remained high throughout the convention.
CRA members, many of whom supported Whitman rival Steve Poizner in the primary, have accused the Whitman campaign of softening her stances on key issues and working behind the scenes to kill the resolution.
Whitman has come out against both the Arizona law and Proposition 187 -- though she recently has said she believes the Arizona law should stand in Arizona. A public declaration in support of those policies by the party could be politically damaging to Whitman, who needs support of Latino and moderate voters to win the general election.
But resolution supporters said the alleged actions of Whitman and CRP leadership alienate the conservative wing of the party, a move that they say could cost the entire ticket votes.
"Meg Whitman thinks everything is about her at this convention and it's not," said Karen England, a Roseville delegate who sits on the board of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. "Meg Whitman wants to squelch the debate on this, wants to make sure that our voices aren't heard. But our conservatives and our people, they're the ones she wants filling phone banks, going out and volunteering and it's really unfortunate."
Interviews with reporters outside the committee meeting escalated into an argument between resolution supporters and a delegate who countered that it was the proponents who were making the convention too much about themselves.
"The bottom line is: do we want Jerry Brown for governor?" said Pat Shuff, a delegate from Orange County who agreed with the resolution's aim. "Bashing (Whitman) at this time is really not going to help the cause."
"I'm sorry that I'm not going to follow blindly," shot back England, who declined to say whether she would vote for Whitman in November.
Party officials said the resolution followed its normal course under the party's parliamentary rules.
"(Supporters) are upset that the resolution died in committee, but it was given an opportunity and no one voted to second it," CRP spokesman Brian Seitchik said. "Now is the time for all of us to come together and support the Republican nominees up and down the ticket."