Way Far Right

Likely new chairman promises to make state GOP the Party of God

In a move sure to frustrate moderate conservatives, offend independent voters and delight Democrats, California Republicans will likely select a social extremist in the mold of former Congressman Bob Dornan to lead the party into the critical 2000 elections.John McGraw, a self-described "outspoken" 36-year-old "Irish Catholic" from the Bay area, promises to move Republicans further into the Religious Right camp if he replaces Orange County's Michael Schroeder as state chairman at the party's Feb. 26-28 Sacramento convention. McGraw-the party's current vice chairman-said he entered politics because he was motivated by "social issues, nasty issues no one wants to talk about." If the solidly conservative Schroeder tried unsuccessfully to unify bitter party factions, the feisty "media averse" McGraw-who is heavily favored over Modesto businessman Nick Bavaro for the party's top spot-has signaled he won't bother. In the January issue of the San Francisco Faith, McGraw ridiculed "namby-pamby" politics and vowed his two top priorities for the party will be divisive social issues: abortion and homosexuality. "Christ came down to this Earth, and he spent his whole life imposing his views on people," McGraw told the Catholic newspaper. "When we don't stand for things in politics, we don't succeed. . . . People like leadership and knowing that somebody is in charge and trying to do what is right. . . . I don't care what anybody says. . . . What the Republican party has failed to do in the past couple of years-and this is quite obvious to most voters-is really articulate a clear vision for this country. When we did, we were successful." McGraw's premise-that the state's voters handed the Democrats sweeping victories in November because the GOP wasn't conservative enough-is popular among the party faithful. But if rabid moralistic right-wing politics is the path to Republican victories, why didn't the self-righteous Dornan trounce Loretta Sanchez? Why didn't the socially liberal Joe Dunn, a novice campaigner, lose to sermonizing multimillionaire Rob Hurtt, the incumbent Republican state senator? And why didn't Christian Coalition pal Dan Lungren roll over centrist, pro-choice Democrat Gray Davis in the governor's race? Nevertheless, McGraw-a Silicon Valley software developer with a background in insurance-is unwavering in his hard-line stances. Attempts to make the party more inclusive (the so-called "Big Tent" approach advocated by Republican moderates) is "unadulterated garbage," according to McGraw. He also told Faith he believes too many "vacillating" Catholic bishops operate like an "extension of the Democratic Party" and that the church should increase efforts to get Catholics to vote exclusively for pro-life Republicans. After the controversial interview was published, he issued a written statement that attempted to soften his intentions but did not disavow the quotes. McGraw has a history of representing the more reactionary wing of his party. He has bragged about confronting priests whom he believes don't toe his hardcore traditional-values line. He wants bishops to withhold Holy Communion from politicians who support a woman's right to choose. During last year's state party convention in Long Beach, he supported a strict rule that would have barred party funds for pro-choice candidates. "Killing our babies [is the] issue of the century," he said. "Compared to that, cutting taxes or any other issue pales in comparison." (McGraw doesn't always practice what he preaches: he is a big financial supporter of Chuck Quakenbush, the state's pro-choice Republican insurance commissioner.)Not that McGraw intends to ignore homophobia as a significant campaign tool-after all, the party is desperate for victories in the wake of losing November's races for U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general. While Republican strategists publicly apologize for cynically using anti-Latino wedge tactics in recent elections, gays and lesbians will get no such bouquets. McGraw said he "will be outspoken" against the "homosexual agenda." Under his direction, he said, the party will commit immediate resources to passage of the upcoming anti-gay ballot initiative, the state's proposed Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Initiatives like DOMA are popular in GOP campaign circles because they energize a key segment of the party's voter base: Bible thumpers. Even if his politics alienate moderate Republicans and independents, that's apparently okay with McGraw. He said he doesn't understand those who "actively lobby for things that are fundamentally opposed [to] the basic teachings of our Church." Maybe Dornan-who also has unabashedly said it is a politician's job to impose his personal religious views on the public-should run again for president. He's sure to get one vote.

 
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