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October 10, 2004

CRP Urban Project Reception: Part One

It was good. It was better than good; it was surprising. Here's the ten-cent story. At the home of Archbishop Adler in San Juan Capistrano, a kickoff reception was held for the California Republican Party's Urban Project. The keynote speaker was Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Steele was awesome, as was the company in attendance.

The aim of the Urban Project is simple. Turn around the weakness of Republican representation in African American and urban communities. It cost me a couple Franklins to get in, but I met some extraordinary folks.

As usual, my boy Joe Phillips was in attendance. He has been touring aournd the country a little bit with Steele whose message last night was that one person can make a difference. The two of them are quite a combination, and I expect that dynamic duo to make some enormous contributions.

The Chair of the CRP, Duff Sundheim was there. I'll be posting my picture soon. I picked Duff out the minute I got there. That's somebody, methinks. He's this big redheaded guy in a pale blue blazer who offered a strong paw saying he was glad to see me again. I never saw him before in my life, and I knew I was being handled, but that's the way I like to be handled. This guy has got energy coming out of his ears. I believe that I am coming to understand a lot about this level of the playing field - it helps when you have stars to watch.

The evening kicked off at about 6. The first thing I noticed about this lovely house in the hills of San Juan Capistrano, was how many tall people were in attendance. That and the clearly Catholic theme in the decor. Steele was already there having his picture taken with donors in the salon, his security guys had checked someone's camera bag just as I approached the guest list table. My name wasn't on the guest list. Horrors. I just about lost it. So I told them that I was a guest of Shirley, and since everybody knows Shirley, I was cool. It was true, but damn Shirl, she said I was on the list. It was bad enough that I forgot to bring my checkbook, andI washed the car and everything. I would be mortified to turn back now and head out of the gated community in ignomy. Still, it was cool. Shirley always has my back, even when I sometimes don't deserve it.

While there were still fewer than 30 folks there (I was right on time), it took me a while to get myself acclimated to the rarified atmosphere. The day before, I picked out my new Republican Suit from one of those little Italian pimp suit joints at the local mall. I was headed to Macy's but this branch turned out to only have furniture and housewares. The thought of getting a suit from Robinson's May wasn't attractive; I tend to think it's more May than Robinsons. Anyway, I know I pulled the most conservative charcoal grey with muted red stripes from the joint. The saleswoman almost couldn't believe it when I modeled. "Very conservative", she said. I discovered the hard way, having worked in the software trenches for the past 3 years, that I am no longer a 16 1/2 neck. The only shirts I have that fit are bizdev blue. Not gonna happen. So I'm in the black Kenneth Cole sweater under the Italian jacket thinking, man do I need an American flag pin. These are my thoughts having passed the winding staircase and heading to the wine.

Soon enough, I see Joe. And then James Spencer, who is running for the Assembly seat for southwest LA. Instantly, I'm comfortable. What a difference a familiar face makes. Spencer was to reveal to me some fascinating machinations of fundraising later that evening.

When I need to break the ice in a crowd of strangers, I have a strange but simple rule. First, find the man in the room who has a bigger beard than me, and start talking like we're old friends. Second, find the most meticulously clean shaven man in the room and start talking like he's somebody very important. It never fails. First, I met Paul who was a friend of Star Parker, whose beard was actually a touch smaller than my own. Real charming guy. Then I met Mary Young and her husband. Mary is a fabulously energetic and warm woman who heads the registration campaign for Orange County. She and her impeccably dressed husband are in the Real Estate business and are long time Republican fundraisers. I'd seen them several times before this evening and the way they walk together, you can tell they've been in love for at least 30 years.

They informed me, contrary to my theory, that there is a significant boost one can get from voter registration and bring out the vote drives. The newly registered Republican is only a slightly less reliable vote than the diehards. Furthermore if you put up a sign that says 'Republicans Register Here' there's about a 73% chance they will vote Republicans. Of course you can't refuse anyone else, but Democrats self-select out. Still, you get people who have just moved who need to reregister, and you get new voters. Mary also griped that Arnold is not stumping for the President. Hey! That's right. What's up with that Arnie? But also that San Bernardino and Riverside Counties are going gangbusters for new registrations, up something like 25%. A very informative chat. I asked Mary for a flag or elephant pin, but they had to leave early. They're crazy busy these days.

Star Parker was there and had many good things to say about my blogmate LaShawn Barber. I must say this of Star, I had no idea about her story and when she finally spoke I was quite surprised to hear that she had escaped from the black hole of indigence. The way people talk about her, I had the idea that she was always wealthy and successful, and seeing her in person betrayed no downscale secrets. She worked the room like a pro. So when she said she had no TV show, I was surprised. Her CURE program is humming along. I'm going to look closer. Someday I expect to be able to raise funds for good stuff like that. Do you see how this makes me giggly?

What continually surprises me about my meetings with California Republicans is how simple and straightforward everyone is. In my own personal quest to be an insider, I'm always going to trip on strategies and tactics, demographic trends and such matters. That's the geek in me - it's why companies pay me the big bucks to straighten out their financial reporting systems. But consistently, I have found a disarming warmth and earnest simplicity in the aims and demeanor of my Republican colleagues. And it only seems appropriate that when the evening kicked off with the Pledge of Allegiance and a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner... Wait a minute. Who is this guy Robbie? I didn't find out his last name, but let me tell you. Somebody must have snatched Paul Robeson's voice from the grave, because this boy can blow! The sooner the country hears this voice.. hmm. Bush's inauguration in January. This man must be on the platform. It's that deep and that simple.

Posted by mbowen at October 10, 2004 09:34 AM

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Cobb On the CRP Urban Project Reception from Booker Rising
He gives the lowdown on Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, actor Joseph C. Phillips, Star Parker, and other black GOP heavies at the event. "The aim of the Urban Project is simple. Turn around the weakness of Republican representation in African A... [Read More]

Tracked on October 10, 2004 05:14 PM


Nice stuff. Thanks for the info.

I'm surprised you didn't now Ms. Parker's story.

Posted by: DarkStar at October 10, 2004 12:47 PM

the california governor only promised to stump for bush in return for favors. while i forgot what those favors were i recall them being worthwhile.

he didn't get the favors.

Posted by: Lester Spence at October 10, 2004 02:17 PM