Bay Area Republicans tout diversity 

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  • Melissa Griffin

It’s not easy being a Republican in the Bay Area. Not only are they outnumbered, but they live in a place that has come to symbolize liberal politics. “San Francisco Democrats” is used by some Republicans as a pejorative reference to our lefty sensibilities, and the whole state is now a bogeyman; a cautionary tale about what happens when Democrats are in charge.

Now that I’m here at the Republican National Convention, I decided to get the perspective of some delegates from Northern California.

“I like to argue, so I don’t mind,” said Pete Constant, a San Jose City Council member. The lone Republican on the 11-member council, he and the other Bay Area delegates I spoke with admitted that they are happy to finally be surrounded with like-minded people. Santa Clara County, where Constant lives, is only 23 percent Republican.  

I asked if they are being treated differently on account of being from liberal ground zero. I imagined the Texas delegation shoving them into a locker or Alabama representatives short-sheeting their beds. One San Francisco delegate, David Kiachko, told me the reaction he gets is mostly sympathy. As in, “Beautiful city, but I’m so sorry.”

Constant and Contra Costa delegate Judy Lloyd agreed that Texas delegates are great and they love the matching outfits (complete with cowboy hats) that the Texans wear each day. “I was thinking we should do something like that in California,” Lloyd said. “Maybe we could all wear baseball hats from each of the teams here. The Giants, the Dodgers, the A’s … well, maybe not so many Dodgers hats.”

Unsurprisingly, Constant, Kiachko and Lloyd admitted that they are moderate Republicans. I asked them about the party platform, what with its pretty extreme views about abortion and pornography. Each dismissed the platform as not entirely relevant. Lloyd explained it this way: “Parties are like families. I don’t agree with everything my family members say.”

Constant added, “It’s just perspectives under the big tent; everyone can find pieces of the platform that they agree with.”

Why have it at all? Said Kiachko, “It makes people feel good to be able to say this is what we stand for. But nobody’s bound by it.”

They maintain that the party is very diverse, especially in California. Constant ticked off the minority group members who are Republican Party members in Santa Clara County. Openly gay men, Korean immigrants, Mexicans, Indians and blacks. “There’s a lot more of us than you think,” he said. “We’re far more diverse than
you think.”

In light of the fact that California’s electoral votes will go to President Barack Obama, I asked what each of the delegates plan to do to promote Mitt Romney. Lloyd plans to fundraise and do some outreach work in the nearby swing states of Colorado and Nevada. Constant, too, will do a phone bank and go door-to-door in Nevada.  

Kiachko is less convinced that turning out Romney votes is futile in California. “I tell people, ‘You have to vote. It’s important. Even if you think it doesn’t count, against whatever odds, you’ve got to have your say.’”
Spoken like a true San Franciscan.

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Melissa Griffin

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