Editorials

Rocky Chavez did Dems a favor and now look. This is why we can’t have bipartisanship

Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, is holding his own in a crowded race for Congress. No thanks to the Democrats, who are running attack ads against him, even though they owe him one.
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, is holding his own in a crowded race for Congress. No thanks to the Democrats, who are running attack ads against him, even though they owe him one. Sacramento Bee

California is, famously, dominated by one political party. Still, here at the state Capitol we claim to value bipartisanship.

Last year, for example, Gov. Jerry Brown needed GOP votes to extend cap and trade, California’s landmark attempt to mitigate climate change. Republicans were under partisan pressure to deny him, but a few – Tom Berryhill in the Senate and Catharine Baker, Chad Mayes, Devon Mathis, Rocky Chavez in the Assembly – went along.

And then there was Chavez, a retired Marine colonel in Oceanside, who decided to run for the San Diego/Orange County congressional seat being vacated by Darrell Issa. Good thing California’s Democrats had his back, right? Not so much, as it now turns out.

To mutual benefit, the group helped negotiate another ten years for the program, which levies fees on polluters to cut greenhouse gas emissions. And they got some concessions for agribusiness, rural property owners and high-speed rail opponents. When the big-ticket bill passed, they were hailed as heroes by Democrats.

Then came the payback.

“Republicans…are so beaten down in the minority that they now confuse surrender with victory,” spat The Wall Street Journal editorial page, promptly. Never mind that cap and trade was originally a Republican concept. GOP votes for it under Brown were “voter betrayal” and “political self-sabotage.”

Mayes was ousted as the Assembly’s GOP leader. Mathis was hit with primary opposition. Berryhill termed out and Baker gave thanks for her safe district. And then there was Chavez, a retired Marine colonel in Oceanside, who decided to run for the San Diego/Orange County congressional seat being vacated by Republican Darrell Issa.

Good thing the Democrats had his back, right?

Not so much.

Chavez, who is holding his own in a crowded field for the June 5 primary, awoke Tuesday to a barrage of negative advertising paid for by – wait for it – his dear friends, the Democrats.

In a 30-second attack ad that has been airing on the local Fox News affiliate and elsewhere in the San Diego media market, the Republican – who also voted for the state budget after negotiating funding for early childhood education – is mocked for supporting “wasteful spending” and voting “to raise your gas and energy costs.”

The ad buy is an independent expenditure by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and it’s clearly a product of the DCCC’s fear that Democrats will be crowded out of the two spots on the November ballot. A similar campaign is airing against former state Sen. Bob Huff, who joined Democrats in voting for a fee to offset port pollution, and who is running now to replace Republican Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton.

Still. Even if the DCCC is desperate to flip these seats to win back the House, and even if state Democratic Party officials were somehow in the dark on their game plan, this is no way to thank a guy who went out on a limb for the good of the planet.

“I’ll let them live with their sins,” Chavez told a member of The Sacramento Bee editorial board. “I’m getting it on both sides, but I got things done. I’m proud of my time in the Assembly.”

Of course, getting things done may not be so easy next time, now that it’s clear how very much we value being bipartisan.

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