The role of the Orange County Republican Party should be obvious: elect Republicans, not Democrats or independents, to public office. For the dense, the objective is even spelled out in the party’s central-committee bylaws. But at some point during his six years as party boss, Scott R. Baugh apparently decided the mission was to elect only Republicans who had pledged loyalty to him. The result hasn’t just wounded the party’s effectiveness. It has also diminished Baugh’s own standing with alarmed local GOP activists who are demanding reforms—or his departure.
“Scott Baugh talks a good game, and he can be a really nice guy, but the bottom line is that he has become too arrogant over the years,” says one veteran central-committee member who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “He has essentially replaced loyalty to the Republican party and its great principles with personal loyalty to him. He’s gotten rich working as a government lobbyist for hire to the highest bidder, for gosh sakes. It stinks.”
Alarm over the powerful OC party’s course has prompted longtime party activist and Tea Party enthusiast Tim Whitacre, a former U.S. Marine with solid conservative credentials, to announce he will challenge Baugh for the top slot in the central committee’s Jan. 17 election for officers.
“I’m running because I want central-committee members to finally have a choice of candidates for chairman,” says Whitacre, who led the 2003 recall of lefty Santa Ana school-board official Nativo Lopez. “The way I see it, this election isn’t about me or Scott. My candidacy is all about getting us to discuss reforming the way our party operates. Right now, we could be doing better to help elect Republicans.”
Baugh—a graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia and a glad-handing government lobbyist who has cashed in on his undeniable political influence since leaving the state assembly a decade ago—first grabbed the chairmanship in 2004 after Tom Fuentes served in the role for 20 years. His admirers say he has done a decent job raising money and occasionally settling disputes among party members. He is certainly favored to win a fourth term as GOP boss because of support from establishment heavyweights such as Michael J. Schroeder, Dana Rohrabacher, Jon Fleischman and Mark Bucher.
In recent years, however, there has been mounting internal dissatisfaction with what some consider Baugh’s cutthroat management style; his backing of disgraced Sheriff Mike Carona long after it was clear Carona was morally deficient; his odd refusal to obey party bylaws calling for regular independent audits of party finances; his close association with Jeffrey Nielsen, a relentless pedophile who targeted seventh- and eighth-grade boys; his ties to a suspicious, $5,100-per-week county lobbying contract; the local party’s dwindling voter-registration numbers; and the party’s purchase of a headquarters in Tustin. Indeed, under Baugh’s watch, a near-Armageddon occurred in a place once proudly hailed as “Reagan Country”: Barack Obama, a liberal Chicago Democrat, did exceptionally well here in the 2008 elections, with nearly 48 percent of the vote.
But the event that has angered GOP activists most is the recent debacle in Irvine. Larry Agran, the county’s most ideologically liberal elected Democrat, can thank Baugh for his November re-election. That’s right: Remarkably, Baugh took steps that aided Agran’s campaign to retain control of the city and thus its Great Park Corp., which doles out $1.6 billion in contracts in the county’s largest, most controversial pending public-works project.
Let’s step back for a moment. Elections are always about elementary math. A winning candidate receives at least one more vote than another. This concept is also simple when it comes to winning control of a city council. Irvine has a five-seat council. Therefore, the party that wins at least three seats gets power.
With conservatives energized, the last election could have been historic for the GOP in Irvine. Baugh’s party had the chance to add two seats to the one occupied by Steven Choi, a Republican who wasn’t yet up for re-election. Two more Republicans would translate directly as the end of Agran’s controversial, decade-long reign. Likewise, as even a moron could figure out, running only one Republican candidate would guarantee failure.
So what did Baugh do? He not only voted to endorse just one Republican candidate, Jeffrey Lalloway, according to multiple sources, but he also vigorously lobbied against the party sharing its endorsement and valuable resources with the second Republican candidate, Lynn Schott. A Lalloway victory without Schott guaranteed the 11th and 12th consecutive years of Agran rule.
Red County blog, which shamelessly shills for Baugh (as well as notorious pedophile priests and the clergy who protect them), went into knee-jerk protective mode and has ridiculed those Republicans who have expressed frustration with the party boss. For example, Whitacre is a grenade tosser, a loser, a man driven by delusions of “grandiosity” who is prone to “undefined blather,” according to the blog. Yet, translated into criminal terms, fair observers know Baugh’s action constituted knowing and willful sabotage of not only Schott, but also the party’s interests.
“What Scott did—basically helping Larry Agran—was unforgivable,” says Allan Bartlett, a central-committee member from Irvine who is running for a slot on the party’s executive committee. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. . . . Something is terribly wrong when the chairman of the Republican Party is helping a liberal Democrat.”
Behind the scenes, Baugh explained that Schott, an energetic Republican activist, hadn’t sufficiently proclaimed her loyalty to him and, unlike Lalloway, she failed to follow proper procedures to get the party’s backing. That excuse didn’t impress Bartlett and others, who threatened rebellion. As a result, in the final weeks of the election (but only after he had allowed Lalloway to send out three campaign mailers declaring himself the only endorsed GOP candidate), Baugh caved to pressure, flip-flopped and endorsed Schott, too.
It was too late. Schott finished third and came within just 3,500 votes of bumping the secretive, dictatorial and free-spending Agran to minority status on the council of a city where registered Republicans and conservative-leaning voters overwhelmingly outnumber Democrats. Lalloway landed in second place. He now joins Choi on the near-powerless council minority.
Baugh tells me the Schott situation was “unfortunate” and he is now open to “more refinement” of the party’s endorsement process.
Says Bartlett, “I hate to say this, but it’s true: Scott is the reason Republicans are still in the minority in Irvine.”
Whitacre isn’t satisfied, either.
“I’m under no illusions about my chances, but Orange County Republicans really do need new leadership,” says Whitacre, who is proposing a series of party reforms including term limits for party officials. “Scott has had his chance. Now we need a party that listens to its grassroots—not one that wants to tell the grassroots what to do.”
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This column appeared in print as "The Manchurian Party Chairman? OC Republican boss angered party activists by aiding the campaign of a liberal Democrat."