Republicans make steady gains with Asian-Americans

November 22, 2014

Asian-Americans, the country’s fastest-growing minority group, are embracing the Grand Old Party.

In the 2014 midterm elections, preliminary exit poll data showed nearly half of Asian-American voters backed the Republican candidate for House. That’s a remarkable 46-point swing in Asian support from 2012, when Asians voted by wide margins for President Obama’s re-election. Disbelieving pundits are questioning how a demographic group seemingly switched parties overnight.

Eye-popping exit poll data is the wrong metric for measuring long-term success. It puts the party back to its old and unsuccessful outreach habits of nominating minority candidates in long-shot districts and throwing up last-minute ads in another language.

Republicans can’t hit home runs with Asian-American voters until we have a team of candidates ready to take the field. Republicans wisely shifted this cycle to building a bench. Across the country, more than three-dozen Asian-American Republican candidates won elections at the state and local level. The wins aren’t exactly high-profile — school board, state senate, city council — but over time, these victories will pay off big dividends to the Republican Party.

“Republicans finally devoted some time, attention and resources to cultivating Asian voters,” Lanhee Chen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, noted in his post-election analysis.

In American Samoa, Aumua Amata Radewagen, a member of the Republican National Committee, will become the territory’s first female representative to Congress. State Sen. Kimberly Yee, the first Asian-American elected to the Arizona legislature, cruised to re-election by 18 points. Even in Orange County, the last bastion of Republican power in California, the party backed four successful Asian-American women running for the state legislature and county board of supervisors.

There’s a compound effect. “Once a community member is elected to a prominent position, it could inspire others with similar backgrounds to lead as well,” argues Tim Nguyen, chair of the Asian Pacific American Coalition. Newly elected California State Sen. Janet Nguyen, the highest-ranking Vietnamese-American in the country, can recruit candidates from Little Saigon to run as Republican candidates for school board and city council. Connecticut State Sen. Tony Hwang can raise money from the Taiwanese-American community that otherwise would never see its way to Republican coffers. San Diego City Council Chris Cate, the first Asian-American in half a century to be elected to the San Diego City Council, has the charisma to introduce GOP presidential candidates to Filipino-American voters in swing states, such as Nevada, Florida and Virginia.

Any one of these rising stars is poised to win a conservative Republican primary for Congress. Take Oklahoma State Sen.-elect Ervin Yen, a first-generation Taiwanese-American immigrant, who is rock-solid on gun rights. “America was built by patriots who used guns to provide for their families, protect their homes and overthrow tyranny,” Mr. Yen, who immigrated to the United States after the Communist takeover of China, writes on his campaign website. “I am a strong believer that those principles are what still makes America great and that the Second Amendment must be defended from liberals who would take away our hard-won rights.”

For the next two years, Republicans like Mr. Yen will be featured almost daily in Asian-language newspapers, sharing a conservative message with communities who have for too long been taken for granted by the Democrats.

Republicans have elected a bench of bilingual stars who have real political power. And you can expect their influence to dramatically increase when the 2016 presidential candidates start calling.

Shawn Steel, a former chairman of the California Republican Party, is the state’s national committeeman on the Republican National Committee.

CA GOP enlists Asian American candidates

October 13, 2014

The Republican Party is aware that it must grow or die. That includes the most Republican County in America, California’s Orange County. During the Reagan era, the OC was famous for turning out massive majorities for Reagan as Governor and later for President.

Since then, Republican registration has declined from 60% to less than 50%. Yet, the OC continues to grow economically with a huge Asian American infusion of successful small businesses and professionals. These new Americans tend to be well-educated and personally successful with good jobs.  Most are new to the American political process.

Nearly 20% of residents in Orange County are Asian Americans. Yet, there is not a single Asian American elected to a partisan office. However, that is about to change.

Notably, the young and aggressive Neel Kashkari, the Republican nominee for governor, is running a guerilla campaign against the fossil, Gov. Jerry Brown.  Neel depends for help on California’s 500,000-strong wealthy Indian American population.

Moreover, Orange County has four attractive candidates running for important political posts. All four of these candidates are Asian American women who immigrated legally and have spent years developing leadership skills in their local communities. All four are conservative. Their emergence as a new, serious political force toward changing the GOP stereotype.

Ling Ling Chang is the Mayor of Diamond Bar and a first generation Taiwanese-American. After winning a hard-fought primary campaign against a quality Republican candidate, another Taiwanese-American, Phillip Chang, Ling Ling emerged to face an unknown white male Democrat this November.  This largely Republican “minority majority” Assembly district is about to elect its first female Taiwanese-American.  If she is successfully re-elected, Ling Ling could hold office until 2026.

Young Kim worked as a District Representative for the popular Congressman Ed Royce (Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee), serving the same communities in which she is now running.  Her opponent, an obnoxious Democrat bully, Sharon Quirk-Silva, was a last-minute surprise win in 2012 during the Obama wave.  $700,000 in union funds helped to defeat the Republican incumbent when few were paying attention.  Democrats have not won in the City of Fullerton in perhaps more than 100 years. Republican leaders are intent on bringing this district back to the Republican caucus. The fact that 25% of the citizens are Asian Americans is a big plus for Kim. And, the fact that nearly 50% of those Asians are Korean Americans helps make Kim’s campaign, a national issue in the Korean American press.

Janet Nguyen is the central Orange County Supervisor, who replaced a Hispanic Supervisor 6 years ago.  She now faces union candidate and ex-Assemblyman Jose Solorio.  Pundits expect this race to cost over $12,000,000 including all the independent expenditures. That includes $8,000,000 from unions for Solorio and $4,000,000 for Janet. Conservatives understand that, in order to break the two-thirds super majority in the California Senate and return some balance to the State Legislature, this open seat race is crucial. Janet, who fled Vietnam when very young on a wooden boat, is charismatic and tough. She is engaging the huge Vietnamese community (about 20% of registered voters in the district) for a historic turnout.  Janet currently represents the most Democratic part of the new California state senate seat of some 600,000 constituents.

Finally, my wife, Michelle Park Steel, is running for the Orange County Board of Supervisors. The district runs along the coast, including Newport Beach. Of the five supervisorial districts, this one has the fewest Asian Americans. Given her job as the top Republican in California, (she is the Vice Chair of the Board of Equalization, California’s tax authority), she is well known.  Michelle currently represents an unbelievable 9,000,000 constituents — 25 percent of the California population, including all of Orange County. She is running against an unknown white male, and earned 47.7 percent of the vote in a four-way Primary.

Popular CRP State chairman and former Senate Republican Leader, Jim Brulte, is known for saying that “the candidate who most looks like, sounds like, and has the most shared experiences of the majority of voters tends to win.”

Brulte’s prediction may be proven this November.  Should the four Asian women win, the Party’s image and look will immediately change for the better, demonstrating that the party is evolving and growing to fully incorporate California’s 12 percent Asian American population. This will restore Republicans as a serious political force in California.

Shawn Steel is California National Committeeman of the Republican National Committee.

Shawn Steel: Not your granddaddy's California GOP

September 18, 2014

This ain't your granddaddy's California Republican Party.

For two decades, California Republicans have watched our voter registration numbers dwindle with the state's changing demographics. Since the beginning of the decline, you've heard how this election will be different - how the party is finally serious about expanding our coalition beyond the 60 percent of white voters who always vote Republican.

Is there any reason to think 2014 will be any different?

(You mean besides Neel Kashkari, the party's Indian American, anti-poverty candidate for governor.)

In the heart of conservative Orange County, four Asian American women - all immigrants who've spent years involved in their community - are running in safe or competitive Republican districts. If the quartet runs the table, it will be the most dramatic demographic change in the party's elected leadership, and in the process, shatter conventional myths about the Grand Old Party.

Myth 1: Republicans can't win in majority-minority districts. This November, the traditional party roles are reversed in the 55th Assembly District. Diamond Bar Councilwoman Ling-Ling Chang, a first-generation Taiwanese-American, faces token opposition from a white male Democrat. Chang earned her spot in the runoff after a hard-fought primary battle with Walnut Valley Unified Trustee Phillip Chen, another Taiwanese-American Republican with a bright future. This seat is unique because it's the only safe Republican seat that is a majority-minority district. When Chang wins in November, it will mark an important victory in a district that consists of primarily minority voters.

Myth 2: Republicans can't win on social issues. In the neighboring 65th Assembly District, Korean-American Young Kim is trying to reclaim a seat Republicans lost two years ago. Kim, a small businesswoman and former aide to Rep. Ed Royce, had the highest vote percentage of any legislative challenger in the primary, beating Democrat Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva by nearly 10 points. Kim's victory also shows that the party doesn't have to sacrifice its conservative ideology to win votes. Her campaign has given equal weight to fiscal and social issues and made Quirk-Silva's support for the new transgender bathroom law a central issue in the race.

Myth 3: Republicans are anti-immigrant. At the local level, Republicans have always done well in Orange County's Little Saigon. This year, Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen is counting on the Vietnamese-American community to send her to Sacramento. Nguyen, who escaped the communist takeover on a small wooden boat in the South China Sea, will be a powerful spokeswoman for how the new California Republican Party embraces immigrants.

Myth 4: Nontraditional Republicans, especially women, can't raise money. Full disclosure: I'm married to the fourth Asian American woman that is changing the face of the California GOP. After eight years as Orange County's representative on the state tax board, my wife, Board of Equalization member Michelle Steel, is campaigning for a spot on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Of course, I'm biased in my assessment of the state's highest-ranking Republican official. So, I'll simply point to an objective metric: fundraising. Michelle has raised nearly three quarters of a million dollars for her supervisorial campaign, shattering the myth that female candidates can't raise money.

For too long, nontraditional Republican candidates have been relegated to quixotic campaigns in hopelessly gerrymandered districts. That's caused a vicious circle: fewer minority elected officials results in fewer minority candidates, and in turn, even fewer minority Republican voters.

These four remarkable women will end that cycle. As our state party chairman, Jim Brulte, routinely says, "The candidate who most looks like, sounds like and has the most shared experiences of the majority of voters tends to win."

This ain't your granddaddy's California Republican Party. Come November, your granddaddy won't be the only one voting Republican.

Shawn Steel, a former chairman of the California Republican Party, is the California national committeeman on the Republican National Committee.

Report from Chicago

August 18, 2014

Rancho Cucamonga's Kathleen Brugger, President of the National Federation of Republican Women, and Shawn at Chicago's Wrigley Field. Last week, I returned from the RNC's Summer Meeting in Chicago.  As your National Committeeman, I wanted to update you on our meetings and keep you abreast of what is happening nationally in our party.

Our RNC staff gave an update on our Victory 365 program and how we are working to engage voters across the country, in every community year-round.  The RNC has raised $131.9 million for the 2014 cycle thus far and has $14.4 million cash on hand.  We now have more than 90 percent of our political staff in the field -- no longer sitting in an office at headquarters.  The RNC is investing heavily in digital and data capabilities and we are now able to provide voter scores to every state to help support our ground operations with more than 3 million voter contact attempts to date. In California alone, the RNC is financing 15 field workers and 6 political action centers. We have never had this level of support from the RNC before
We also had the opportunity to meet rising GOP stars -- Will Hurd, Republican Nominee for Texas’ 23rd Congressional District; BJ Pak, Georgia State Representative; Amanda Pasdon, West Virginia House of Delegates; and Evelyn Sanguinetti, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois.  These four individuals embody the GOP’s message of freedom and opportunity.  
Good friend and fellow Californian, National Federated Republican Women President Kathleen Brugger (Rancho Cucamonga) hosted a special event for RNC members as well.
The RNC Standing Committee on Rules established the Standing Committee on Presidential Primary Debates, which is tasked with determining which GOP primary debates to sanction. There will be fewer debates, unlike the marathon 23 we had in 2012. And you will not see liberal hacks like George Stephanopoulos moderating -- the RNC will determine who moderates and make sure to control this process.
At the recommendation of the Site Selection Committee, of which I am a member,  we voted to officially select Cleveland, Ohio to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.  Cleveland is ready to show the country what they have to offer and the importance of this state to the 2016 presidential election cannot be overstated. 
The RNC was honored to hear from  Vice President Dick Cheney, Governor Scott Walker, Governor Mike Pence, Senator Mark Kirk, and Congressman Paul Ryan.

There are good things happening and I am confident that we are going to win control of the U.S. Senate in November and put a check on the out-of-control abuses of the Obama Administration.  

We are poised to win and I look forward to being in the trenches with you for the next 74 days!

~ Shawn Steel

California’s party-switchers miss the vote

July 24, 2014

California politicians who’ve abandoned the Republican Party haven’t fared well in recent elections.

Even in a one-party state like California, voters don’t trust politicians who experience a convenient political conversion. At the state and local level, party-switching candidates have lost primary, general and special elections they might have won if they’d stuck with the GOP.

First up: the golden boy and would-be mayor of San Diego. As chairman of the California Republican Party in the early 2000s, I appointed Nathan Fletcher to serve as the state political director. A good-looking, charismatic Marine, Fletcher had his political career all mapped out. He started at the state party, served as an aide to a congressman, married an influential Bush staffer and eventually won a spot in the state Legislature.

Karl Rove, Pete Wilson, Meg Whitman and Mitt Romney all endorsed his 2012 campaign for mayor of San Diego. But the local party saw past the name-brand Republicans and endorsed a blunt-talking, pension-reforming city councilman. Without the local party’s support, Fletcher knew he couldn’t win, and so, in the middle of his campaign, he re-registered decline-to-state.

Within six months of taking office, San Diego’s sexual-harassing Democratic mayor resigned, and Fletcher was back again for the special election — this time losing as a Democrat. Turnout was identical in both races, with nearly a quarter million votes cast. Fletcher’s party-switching netted him 416 additional votes, a difference of nine hundredths of one percent. Had Fletcher stayed a Republican, his 2012 primary loss would have left him the party’s heir-apparent, a spot filled by now-Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

One hundred miles up the California coast, former NFL star and businessman Damon Dunn didn’t fare much better in his bid to be mayor of Long Beach. In 2010, Dunn received glowing profiles from national conservatives in his Republican campaign for secretary of state. The rising star, according to the conventional narrative, was helping Republicans appeal to African-American voters.

Three years after sharing his “inspirational story” with Sean Hannity, Dunn announced that he, too, had switched to decline-to-state, just before launching his campaign for mayor of Long Beach. This June, Dunn lost the mayor’s race by just 4 percent to Councilman Robert Garcia, who at least had the foresight to switch parties in 2009. Had Dunn remained a Republican, he’d have been able to brand Garcia as the unprincipled party-switcher in the low turnout mayoral race.

The most disappointing party-switch might be Dan Schnur’s failed campaign for secretary of state. A longtime Republican spin doctor, Schnur served as a spokesman for Republican Governor Pete Wilson and U.S. Senator John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. After a stint as chairman of the state’s political watchdog, he switched to decline-to-state.

In the June 3 primary for secretary of state, Schnur outraised his Republican opponent by a 10-1 margin. He received so much favorable press that a former Los Angeles Times political reporter dubbed him “the favored candidate of our state’s political media.” It resulted in a disappointing fourth-place finish, behind indicted Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee, who stands accused of bribery and weapons trafficking. Had Schnur remained a Republican, he’d have easily made the runoff and would be Republicans’ best opportunity for a statewide win, a role now filled by Pete Peterson.

Only one recent party-switcher has been victorious in California, and it’s the exception that proves the rule. Deputy District Attorney Carol Rose, a delegate to the 1996 Republican National Convention, conveniently became a Democrat one month before launching her judicial campaign in Los Angeles County. Only the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, a small legal publication, bothered reporting on Rose’s party switch. It also helped that her opponent was former Assemblyman Charles Calderon, whose brothers stand accused of public corruption and bribery.

To be sure, it’s never good to have rising stars leave a party. And that’s why California Republicans, too, must learn from the failures of the party-switchers. In each case, the party-switch was driven by political expedience and occurred before or during a campaign.

California Republicans are talking more about expanding our base and appealing to minority communities that have long been turned away from our party. If that outreach stops on Nov. 4, we’ll fare no better than the party switchers who missed the vote.

Steel, a former chairman of the California Republican Party, is the state’s representative on the Republican National Committee.

Silicon Valley and the GOP: Republicans nurturing false hopes

January 20, 2014

As California Republicans plot our survival, there's a growing belief among state operatives that our success is tied to Silicon Valley. The wealthy, libertarian-minded tech entrepreneurs are a natural fit, this line of thinking goes, with a more socially moderate, fiscally conservative Republican Party.

There's just one problem: The Silicon Valley isn't aligned with right-of-center politics.

From Google's copyright infringements and censorship in China to the entire valley's collaboration with government spying, techies aren't the libertarian heroes of Ayn Rand's dreams. Nor are they free-market capitalists with the desire to fix Sacramento.

The Bay Area, one of the country's most liberal regions, has dropped Republican voter registration to third-party status behind decline-to-state voters. In 2012, the valley's two representatives in Congress each won re-election with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Democrats' dominance in the valley is so monolithic that Rep. Mike Honda, D-Silicon Valley, now faces an intra-party challenge from former Obama administration official Ro Khanna. A Republican could fail to make the general election.

"The press portrays a ruthless band of techno-libertarians taking over the city," David Auerbach, a New York-based writer and software engineer, writes at "The reality is much different."

Aside from a few high-profile Ron Paul bundlers, 80 percent of the valley's political contributions go to Democratic candidates. All but two of the tech executives recently invited to the White House backed President Barack Obama's reelection campaign.

"The tech moguls may be the first large capitalist constituency outside Hollywood to identify almost entirely with the progressives," argues author Joel Kotkin. Other authors point to a new philosophy of "peer progressivism" that is sweeping the valley.

These tech progressives embrace planned communities, where corporate institutions control every aspect of daily life. Employees at Facebook and Google hop on company buses to reach their corporate compounds. They can enjoy a gourmet meal and drop the kids off at daycare all by going to work, and without having to interact with the help.

Contrary to the myth, the Silicon Valley isn't full of individualistic free-market capitalists. Tech companies are largely building wealth from government contracts. This summer's revelations by government whistleblower Edward Snowden detail how the biggest tech companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo, cooperated with the NSA's Prism data collection program.

Even Peter Thiel, the archetype of the Ron Paul-loving techie, lines his pockets from big government surveillance. Thiel is the single largest shareholder in Palantir Technologies, a quasi-secretive data-mining company. Now valued at $9 billion, Palantir owes much of its profits to government contracts.

Google's policies in particular are incompatible with the Republican Party's values of individual freedom and property rights. Ask authors of the millions of books that the company has digitally copied without permission about Google's respect for intellectual property rights. Then again, some Google users can't even ask questions. Last week, Google stopped notifying users in China when they searched for censored terms, such as "Tiananmen Square in 1989" or "Falun Gong."

The "Do No Evil" search giant, which recently purchased robotics giant Boston Dynamics, has directly aligned its business plan with big government. One analyst predicts that the U.S. military is on track to become Google's biggest customer.

"In a sense, the tech companies are more like the NSA than they would like to think," writes Wired's Steven Levy. "Both have seized on the progress in computing, communications, and storage to advance their respective missions."

There's no question that California Republicans need to expand our coalition. But, as long as Republicans remain focused on the Silicon Valley mirage, we put off the hard work of build trusting with women, Latinos and Asian-Americans.

Shawn Steel, a former chairman of the California Republican Party, is the state's representative on the Republican National Committee. He wrote this for this newspaper.

How about amnesty for legal immigrants?

January 13, 2014

Billions of people would like to live in America.

At this moment some 4 million people are patiently following the rules, filling out the  paperwork, paying the fees, and getting interviews in order to get their  chance to immigrate to America legally.

These 4 million, however, have no interest group supporting their  plight.  Aliens who cut in line are depriving millions of other  people of their dream. Most of those legal immigrants are people of color.

Not answered is a fundamental injustice.

What does “comprehensive immigration” mean?

Is there a single thought about accelerating the applications of the  folks who are patiently and legally waiting in line?

 My wife is Korean-American and immigrated here 35 years ago.  It took  her several years to go through the paperwork and get an interview in  Asia for permission to enter the United States.   When her mother earned her visa she  immediately  set up a new business to support themselves and paid Michelle’s  out-of-state  college tuition in cash. Not once did this family seek or want government welfare.

Other members of Michelle’s family had to wait over 10 years for  permission to live in America.

Migrants who play legally tend to have superior education, enhanced  cultural values and assimilate into the U.S. mainstream much more easily  than illegal immigrants.

For example, most Asian-American immigrants presently enjoy higher  education, better jobs, more intact families, less crime and longer  marriages than the average native-born American.

Why is that?

One strong reason is that it takes a person with superior skills to go  through the legal immigration process and by the time they get to America,  they are ready to become successful. Very few of these immigrants wind  up on street corners begging for tough jobs.

If Congress is to do anything “comprehensive” , it is clear that our  legislators must consider national security and the rights of legal  immigrants ahead of any such discussion about those who entered the
country illegally.

Until Congress addresses those two key issues, there can be no real  comprehensive immigration reform.



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The Governor's Initiatives
Initiatives At Home And Abroad

Not Just Bush Scored A Victory On Nov. 2
Against Prop 62
Vote No on 62
Play The Initiative Card
'Voter Choice': Reform-free Reform
Don't Take the Bayou State Cure
Dem Dominance of State is Dead
A Downright Reaganesque Speech

Arnold's Army
Winners and Losers
The Conservative Question
Governor Croupier
Recall Choice Really Between Tom, Bill, Arnold
Who CAIRs?
People Must Demand Recall
Golden Possibilities

State Republicans See Light in 2006
Don't Snicker ... Bill Simon Could Actually Win
'Same-Day Voting' Makes Hanging Chads Look Quaint
Lionesses of the Left Eat Judicial Nominees Alive

Escape Artist

An Attempt at an End Run on Prop. 209
Don't Force Lawyers to Join the State Bar