, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, won't get another term in office without a fight.
Longtime party activist Tim Whitacre has announced that he will challenge Baugh for the top slot at the county's most powerful political party.
The news came this morning in an e-mail Whitacre sent to GOP central committee members who are scheduled to vote on Jan. 17 for the party's executive committee candidates.
Whitacre said in the announcement (obtained by OC Weekly from a high ranking party source) that it's time for "some necessary house cleaning" and that Baugh has led the party "long enough."
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Baugh--a graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and a glad-handing 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 settling disputes between Republicans. He can certainly count on indefinite backing from establishment heavyweights like Michael J. Schroeder, Mark Bucher and Dana Rohrabacher.
But in recent years, there's been mounting internal party dissatisfaction with what some consider Baugh's cutthroat management style, his backing of disgraced Sheriff Mike Carona long after it was clear he was a crook, his refusal to obey party bylaws that call for regular audits of party finances, his close association to a relentless pedophile who targeted 7th and 8th grade boys and the local party's dwindling voter registration numbers.
Indeed, under Baugh's watch near Armagedon occurred in a place once proudly hailed as "Reagan Country": Barack Obama, a liberal Chicago Democrat, did exceptionally well here in the 2008 elections.
Nevertheless, Whitacre--a former U.S. Marine known as a stickler on ethics, a proponent of conservative grassroots activism and the man who led the 2003 recall of lefty Santa Ana school board member Nativo Lopez--has a monumental task to make his case for new leadership at the OC GOP. Baugh enjoys the knee-jerk support of two partisan online fish wraps: Jon Fleischman's Flash Report and the Matt Cunningham-tied Red County. You can count on them to fillet Whitacre and champion Baugh in coming weeks.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly