Members of the Montecito Hope Ranch Republican Women’s Club gathered together for a citizen’s forum at Santa Barbara’s Yacht Club on Thursday, April 29, to celebrate outstanding students, give Republican candidates and speakers an opportunity to invigorate members, and encourage all in attendance to play an active role in promoting political involvement if they wish to see changes in public policy. Inspired by the vigor and outrage of the Tea Party, speakers advocated for smaller government as well as mobilization at the grassroots level.
The students who received scholarships were Rebecca Nielson-Robbins, a Harvard-bound superhuman; Tammy Lang, a freshman at Westmont and an outspoken, active volunteer in community service and political promotion for the Republican Party; and Ben Parish, one of the few Republican organizers on the UCSB campus who helped bring Karl Rove to Santa Barbara and battles the progressive liberalism he says has found its place amongst highly educated scholars and academics. Each was given $1,000 to further their education. After the students were awarded, the floor was handed over to the politicians.
The candidates and speakers were insistent on making changes, particularly in cutting down government regulation where it interferes with business and economics. Michael Stoker, former Santa Barbara County supervisor and candidate for the 35th State Assembly District, blamed over-regulation for taking jobs in California. He criticized budget deficits and bureaucracy while pushing for pension reform. He also complained that the global warming regulations are ineffective and too prohibitory for business to flourish, pushing Republicans to “agitate, agitate, agitate!” and raised the question of whether responsibility to business supersedes that to the environment.
Andy Caldwell, referred to as a “governmental watchdog,” spoke at length of bureaucratic inefficiency. A talk show host, as well as a founder of COLAB — a group that lobbies for labor, agricultural, and business interests with county government — he encouraged Republicans to look for similarities rather than differences and to be open to intra-party cohesion, saying, “Most of us are in this economy together.”
Other speakers relied more on standard rhetoric of the right, playing on the religious and patriotic convictions to arouse the group’s support. Greg Gandrud, who’s running for Santa Barbara County Treasurer, ranged his speech from free enterprise, to the threat of fundamentalism in the Middle East, to nostalgic reminiscences back to the legacy of Reagan.
Heather Bryden, the founder of the Santa Barbara chapter of the Tea Party, compared herself to St. Paul, saying that she tries to convert at least one person a day to her political cause. She strongly advocated for right-wing radical David Horowitz, referred to the Left as “the dark side,” and said that President Barack Obama’s goal is “to make you and me suffer.” She said that the Tea Party would support a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives, citing the Tea Party’s ABC policy: “Anybody But Capps.”