No political convention would be complete without at least a splash of floor drama.
The California Republican Party voted to formally recognize a new conservative organization today after a procedural floor fight that included debate, voice votes and a person-by-person count of the delegates gathered at the Burlingame Hyatt Regency for the party's spring convention.
Conservative activist Mike Spence created the Conservative Republicans of California in the aftermath of a divisive leadership fight at the California Republican Assembly, a 75-year-old group that bills itself as the "conscience of the Republican Party." The charter allows the new group, which includes several GOP legislators, to use the party's insurance policy, reserve space at the convention at a lower cost and assign one delegate to vote on party matters.
Spence's effort to place a vote to charter his new organization on Sunday's general session agenda stalled in a committee earlier in the weekend. CRP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro initially tried to block his move to bring up the issue on the floor as the end of the session neared. A voice vote on whether to take up Spence's motion was too close to call, leading Del Beccaro to ask opposing camps to congregate in different areas of the hotel banquet room so the votes could be counted without a roll call. Del Beccaro, who had argued that the procedural issue should be worked out in a committee, was out-voted by delegates and the charter was approved after continued debate on the merits of the group.
Critics of the proposal argued that Spence had not complied with the party's procedure for approving new groups.
"This would be a unanimous consent vote if they had complied with all the (chartering rules)," said Tom Hudson, a CRA vice president.
Supporters, including Republican Assemblyman Don Wagner, said the party should not turn its back on Republican groups at a time when it needs to grow its membership and get its message out.
The procedural dust-up came after the party approved the adoption of a conservative platform, a subject of much internal wrangling when it met last fall, with little fanfare. The platform includes language on abortion, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration sought by conservatives. A more moderate proposed platform had been blocked by a committee at the party's fall convention.
In addition to voting to endorse and oppose several ballot measures, the party took up a package of resolutions that included one opposing Speaker John A. Perez's proposal to change a corporate tax formula policy to raise $1 billion to provide tuition breaks to middle class students attending California's public colleges and universities. Perez will need support from two Republicans in each house of the Legislature to win passage of the plan. While GOP members of the Assembly voted for a bill to undo the corporate tax break, which was approved as part of a budget agreement in 2009, the Senate GOP leader has expressed opposition to the proposal.