Capitol Alert

Activists claim credit for California GOP shakeup, but ex-leader warns about ‘infighting’

Former Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, in her office at the Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday, December 2, 2014.
Former Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, in her office at the Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday, December 2, 2014.

Republican activists are claiming credit for the resignation of a key party official, but former Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen says she wrestled for months over her decision last weekend to step down as vice chair of the California Republican Party.

Olsen, a rising star in the party who serves as an elected supervisor for Stanislaus County, said she was on the fence last year about even taking the job given the duties of public office and her responsibilities as a single mother of three who is trying to grow her consulting business. Before deciding to step down, Olsen said, “I wrestled with this decision for a very long time.”

In addition to her own busy schedule, Olsen said it became clear she didn’t have the logistical support needed from the party on a project she led to develop “solution-focused leadership (and) messaging focused on everyday Californians” to help expand the GOP’s shrinking ranks.

An ad featuring state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto, Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, and former Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen urged people to support Measure L, a transportation tax measure on the Nov. 8, 2016 ballot. It passed. Gra

Olsen’s departure comes as a pair of vocal conservative activists and bloggers were preparing a resolution for the state party’s upcoming convention calling for her censure and resignation. Arthur Christopher Schaper declined Monday to withdraw the resolution, which, among other allegations, restates claims of an affair between Olsen and GOP Assemblyman Chad Mayes. Olsen’s estranged husband sent a letter to the Assembly in April, seeking an investigation into whether any state resources were used to conceal a relationship between the two.

Mayes was ousted from his leadership post in August. Schaper and Joseph Turner, a self-described nationalist hard-liner on illegal immigration issues, helped instigate the shakeup after Mayes led a faction of Republicans to cross party lines and support Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s cap and trade climate change program.

Olsen was one of those who opposed the party turning against Mayes. Yet even some who agreed that Mayes should step down privately complained that an internal power struggle could sidetrack the party’s efforts in next year’s elections to break the Democrats’ two-thirds supermajorities in the Legislature.

On his blog, Turner questioned Olsen’s stated reasons for stepping away just as activists were “going to wage a holy war against her.” In an interview Monday, he said it is “absolutely laughable” that there was no connection between the conservative activism and resolution and her decision.

Olsen said Monday that she only learned about the anticipated resolution on social media, but added she wasn’t surprised that her detractors were trying to take credit for her leaving.

“There are activists within the party who would rather continue the infighting that doesn’t help anyone … than focus on a rebuilding effort where Republican values are moving our state to a better place,” Olsen said. “As long as the party has voices that allow the infighting to be more dominant than the progress and moving forward, that’s a huge concern.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago