By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
What the Chuck?
Does Irvine Assemblyman Chuck DeVore honestly think he can Twitter and parody-video his way through the Republican primary and into a title bout with Senator Barbara Boxer next year? Yep
A SigAlert snarled the northbound Highway 57 the day Chuck DeVore promised to speak to a gathering of Republican women in Pomona. The California state assemblyman for the 70th District only had about an hour to leave his Irvine offices, navigate the traffic mess and make the meeting on time—and this commute came just after he had flown into John Wayne Airport from Sacramento.
Even though they had a shorter trip than DeVore, most members of the Republican Women Federated chapters of Puente Hills, East San Gabriel Valley and Walnut arrived late to the scheduled 5:30 p.m. get-together at the Pomona Valley Mining Co., a down-home restaurant on a hill near the Interstate 10/Highway 57 interchange. There to meet them in the Eureka Room was DeVore: tall and gangly, with a pale, cherubic face and wiry hair, working the room like a bellhop, all handshakes and laughs, with nary a sweat bead on his forehead from the harrying drive. He wants to speak to all 300-some California chapters of Republican Women Federated to promote his quixotic campaign to defeat Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in 2010. Today, he’s meeting with groups 55 through 57.
About 30 people eventually show up, ranging from middle-aged to elderly, almost exclusively white. After an invocation, steak-or-chicken dinner and brief statements by candidates for other local races, DeVore stood up to speak. He’s given 10 minutes; he’ll speak for an hour.
“I never have prepared remarks—I suck at speeches,” DeVore tells the audience as he walks in front of the lectern. “I go crazy behind podiums.” He warms up the audience by asking which of them had filed for an extension on paying their taxes. A few people raise their hands.
“These people are still eligible to become members of President Obama’s cabinet!” he says as the audience roars.
DeVore mentions a bomb scare that occurred earlier that day near the state Capitol. “I’m sure someone will blame it on people who attended a Tea Party,” he says, referring to the hundreds of protests organized nationwide on April 15 by conservative activists against Barack Obama’s administration. “How many of you attended?”
Most of the audience raises its hands.
“You’re all domestic terrorists, according to the Department of Homeland Security!” he cracks.
DeVore throws more Republican red meat at them while he roams the Eureka room with a wireless mic: limited government, no universal health care, Reagan, energy policy, Boxer is a liberal, and the like. Rhetoric indistinguishable from most GOP-candidate forums. The Republican ladies lap up the spiel, if a bit lackadaisically. But their interest is piqued when DeVore discloses his ace for defeating Boxer. “My campaign is different than traditional, normal, losing Republican campaigns,” he states. “I’m not self-financed. I won’t bombard the voters senseless.” His trick? The powers of the Internet.
Silence. DeVore explains the tools—Facebook, Twitter, blogging, YouTube—he’s banking on to pull off the legislative upset of California’s young century. Most of the audience responds only with quizzical looks. “Your groups should have a Facebook page,” he says after discovering few people in the room have even a personal account. “It’s a great, easy way to communicate ideas. Just because Al Gore invented the Internet does not mean it’s something we Republicans should avoid!” More laughs.
He plugs his greatest Internet hits: a tax calculator on his website (chuckdevore.com); a YouTube video that currently pits DeVore in a legal battle against former Eagles member Don Henley; multiple Twitter updates a day (he tweeted about the Capitol bomb scare); fund-raising via Twitter—the first such effort by a politician in the United States.
Almost no one has heard of this stuff.
DeVore is unflappable. His smile and enthusiasm remain electric. “This is a good fight,” he concludes. “I’ll literally talk till midnight, till the cleaning crew comes out, to get my message across.”
* * *
DeVore is as loyal an OC GOP soldier as Reagan could imagine; indeed, he worked in the Reagan administration as a Pentagon special assistant for foreign affairs and drove then-Congressman Bob Dornan to the Great Communicator’s 1984 re-election kickoff party at Mile Square Park—to this day, Orange County’s largest political rally. He helped start the College Republicans at Cal State Fullerton in the early 1980s. His entry into politics was as Chris Cox’s first staffer. (Of his former boss’ much-criticized reign as Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, DeVore says, “History is going to be the final judge once people can step back from the current crisis. It’s going to be interesting, but he will be treated better than [he] certainly [has been] in the past nine months.”) DeVore sat on the Republican Party of Orange County’s Central Committee for more than a decade, serving as the head of its ethics committee. He wasn’t afraid to discipline candidates for violations ranging from misstated endorsements to campaign-finance tricks (among those he admonished: former Assemblymembers Marilyn Brewer and Ken Maddox). And DeVore quit his position as the Assembly’s Chief Republican Whip out of principle when it became apparent members of his party would vote for the most recent California state budget.