The Placer County Republican Party is taking a big-tent approach to the local candidate endorsement process by inviting the party members to a new one-day selection convention.
The Aug. 18 event replaces the normal process, which limited participation to the 27 elected members of the county's Republican central committee. The convention will be used to select the candidates the party will endorse for the Nov. 6 election. Those local races are officially nonpartisan, but endorsements are typical from Republicans and Democrats.
"It has never been done before, to my knowledge," Placer County Republican Central Committee Chairman Jeff Atteberry said of the event. "It will bring a whole bunch more people into the process."
But Jon Fleischman, a conservative blogger and former state Republican Party executive director, questioned whether the delegates will add new voices or simply be pawns of existing players.
Under the plan, each central committee member can appoint up to 10 delegates. The convention will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18 at William Jessup University in Rocklin.
Prospective delegates can visit the central committee website, www.placergop.org, for full details and an application. Atteberry said local Republicans need not know a central committee member to get an appointment. Attending the convention costs $25.
Atteberry dismissed the notion that political parties should not be injected into nonpartisan races.
"People are closest to and most affected by local government," Atteberry said. "If those governments are not more responsible, we'll have more" cities in dire financial shape.
Atteberry said central committee members will try to educate attendees, but he expects the additional voices from people less involved in party politics to produce some different results than the usual committee-only endorsement process.
"I am not concerned about the delegates making bad calls," he said. "The Republican Party is trying to do new things."
But Fleischman was skeptical that the list of endorsements will be much different than usual.
"It stands to reason that the 27 members of the county committee will each bring 10 people that are in agreement with them on how to vote on local endorsements, and so outcomes are unlikely to change with a larger group," he said.
"This method of allowing members to hand-pick participants is a little odd," he said. "You would think that if they want to increase participation, they would just open it up to all registered Republican voters."
Fleischman said the event might be more about money than anything else.
"When you multiply the $25 registration fee times 270 participants, that's a tidy little fundraiser for the Placer County GOP," he said.
Atteberry's Democratic counterpart, J. Brian Washman, found value in the idea.
"It sort of surprises me that the Placer Republican Party would do this. I wouldn't guess they would want a larger caucus-style process," said Washman, chairman of the Placer County Democratic Central Committee. "If it were suggested we do something like that, I would not fight it."