What I Learned Running as a Republican in California

Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you a story.  It’s not about little red riding hood or houses built out of straw.  But there are pigs and wolves.

I’m a fifth-generation Californian who grew up on a cattle ranch and went to MIT.  So, I’ve looked back at the old and looked ahead to the new. I have training in real estate, law and finance.  I work as an investment advisor and an investment banker.  I have four daughters and am a baptized Episcopalian.  I have served on many non-profit boards, though I prefer being on horseback.  This year, I bucked the advice of many friends and ran as a Republican for the Board of Equalization (“BOE”).  I’m in District 2 which covers 19 counties that cling to the coast from the Oregon border down to Ventura County.

What's the BOE?  It was created in 1879 to ensure that counties charged property taxes uniformly.  It collects alcohol and pipeline taxes.  Perhaps most unique to the Board is its Taxpayers' Rights Advocate Office.  Some want the BOE folded under the governor's office.  Those wary of consolidating power have argued otherwise.

As a Top Two candidate, I made it to the General Election.  To my surprise, I beat one of Gavin Newsom’s former hand-picked replacements.   (He appointed her to the SF Board of Supervisors when he jumped to his next gig.)  The good news?  Our campaign bumped up the district’s CAGOP percentage of votes by over 13% versus the last election cycle.  They’re still counting the votes.  So far, 584,090 voted for yours truly – more than 2.5 times the number of Republicans in the State of Wyoming!  The bad news?  I still lost decisively to a hard-Left progressive.  It makes you scratch your head and take stock.

Here's what I learned, running as a commonsense Republican in California:

Running for office is expensive.

Candidate statements and filing fees for the primary and general elections in California will set you back over $12,500.  (That’s before you pay for a treasurer, buy lawn signs, webhosting, email service, or social media.)  The State of California is a vacuum with an insatiable hunger for taxes and fees.  Even for its elections.

Ask not what the California Grand Old Party (“CAGOP”) can do for you.  Ask what you can do for the CAGOP.

The CAGOP will provide you training but may not provide you dollars.  Many of the central committees need financial help getting their slates out.  So, as a candidate for a district office, expect to give rather than get.

Sacramento’s bureaucracy thrives on complication.  It’s job insurance.

Form 410.  Form 501.  Form 700.  Forms, forms and more forms from Sacramento.  The place lives and breathes bureaucracy.  Candidates are issued a handbook on the complexities they’re supposed to follow.   And, you’d better hire a treasurer so you don’t step on landmines.  The irony?  Our tax money underwrites this political shop of horrors.

Do not expect most of the traditional media to be fair in interviews.  Ever.  

Despite sending the two large newspaper chains specific information related to what I planned to do to make the BOE better, NONE of it made the press.  Despite discussing basic economic issues in a clinical way in two major media interviews, not a word was printed.  So, don’t expect most of the traditional media to give you fair coverage.  Two worthy standouts which ARE willing to stand up to the Left: the Santa Barbara News-Press and the non-partisan Opportunity Now Silicon Valley.

It takes a lot of courage to run as an underdog.

Running for a statewide office as a Republican in California builds character.  Not just the ordinary kind.  More akin to what you might find in Killer Angels: “The civilians have fled and the houses are dark.”

True believers don’t care about the facts. 

California is in a world of hurt.  Highest gas prices in the country.  Crappy schools.  High crime.  Highway off ramps sheltering drug addled zombies.  Terrible fire prevention practices on government-controlled land.  Billions voted on for water infrastructure but no new reservoirs.  $105 Billion trains to nowhere.

Common sense candidates continue to hope a majority of voters will have an epiphany.  The wisest, some observe, have already voted.  With their feet.  Wagon trains of corporate HQs and middle-class Americans continue to head to Texas, Nevada and Utah.  The Leftists who stay?  Many are true believers.  The nihilists that Eric Hoffer warned us about in his seminal book which inspired Ronald Reagan to give him a Medal of Freedom.

God-fearing counties in California do exist — like Trinity and Del Norte — where I garnered a decisive majority of the vote.  Heaven holds a special place for them.  If Californians voted by acreage, I would have won.

People will ask you questions completely irrelevant to the office you’re seeking.

As a candidate for the BOE, I found myself peppered with questions which have nothing to do with the office.  Are you “pro-life”?  Do you support Trump?  What is your position on vaccines?  School curriculum?  Election integrity?  These have nothing to do with taxing practices or why the BOE is an important part of our state’s checks and balances.

You’ll have little or no staff, so be prepared to be chief cook and bottle washer.

Delivering lawn signs?  Updating your website?  Writing out a speech?  Preparing ad copy?  If you’re watching every nickel, chances are, you’ll be doing these things yourself.  If you want sympathy in politics, it’s a lot like Wall Street.  Buy a dog.

You’ll learn who your true friends are.

When you run for office, you’ll discover who your true friends are: who’s willing to endorse you, put up a lawn sign, or write a check.  I’m humbled and in awe over the encouragement and support that I received for my campaign.  Our campaign had over 95 donors.  I was so amazed at the generosity that I wrote each donor a personal “thank you” note.

Postpartum blues.

After you’ve given a campaign your all, you may feel ready for a blood transfusion or a bender.  I settled for a walk in the woods and a can of sparkling water.  As they say, to each his own.

What did I learn as a Republican running for office in California?  A hell of a lot, that’s for certain.  Though it’s tempting to lament, I’ll just rather settle for old-fashioned gratitude.

In conclusion, I do have a confession.  One of my vices is collecting cowboy belt buckles.  I have too many of them, but they remind me of rides and rodeos.  They remind me of heading and heeling calves.  They remind me of when California was freer and had less asphalt.  I have one buckle dedicated to the State of Jefferson.  The double-cross “X’s” feature prominently in its design.  Perhaps next time I visit Trinity and Del Norte I’ll wear it.

As Jefferson said, “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

Peter Verbica was a 2022 Republican candidate for the state Board of Equalization District 2, which includes Santa Clara County. With 79% of the ballots counted Nov. 14, Verbica trailed Democrat Sally Lieber 69.8% to 30.2%.

8 Comments

  1. Peter was the clear-cut choice for the office, if one embraces the simple belief that fair value is an absolute requirement for an expense. We live in the age of common sense having become extraordinarily uncommon. Sanity has left the room.
    Texas? Really? Is that where I have to go???

  2. Is it any wonder California Political Leadership and Governance is so bad?
    – too many low information voters, voting on sound bites and propaganda.
    .
    California is ground zero for “Low Information Voters”.
    .
    No matter how intrusive, overbearing, taxing, and unaccountable the California politicians are,
    they just need very little “spin”, some promises of handouts, and
    false demonization of the opposition to get re-elected over, and over and over again.
    (At least 20 years of almost nothing accomplished may have caught up with Cindy Chavez)
    .
    Even when the entire State, County and City around them is in evident deep decline, and advocates have more influence than taxpayers – they just continue to vote against their best interests.

  3. Peter – Sorry to hear the results but not surprised – I guess I was hoping to hear that “… good guys have a chance after all…”. In a sense you represented the best of us all that supported you and all I can say is, Thank You! Thank you for representing our views and putting you and your family on the front line. We all live vicariously through your efforts and will live to fight the good fight again…!

  4. Peter,
    I love Jefferson’s quote. He would roll over in his grave if he saw what’s happened to our country.
    Millions taking and not giving while the rest of us foot the bill.
    I admire you for running for office. Well done! The problem with America is that people don’t think,
    they react. So, keep on thinking Peter and let it be known what common sense is. There are still good people out there.

  5. Peter,
    Thank you for subjecting yourself to the “experience” for the potential benefit of all of us!
    Your insights are a confirmation for most of us!
    If you are still collecting western sterling silver buckles, I have one which I don’t wear anymore. It’s from the “LAZY 3” Ranch up on Mt. Hamilton!
    You know the place! Let me know before you ride off into the sunset! Again, thank you!

  6. You lament that people asked you irrelevant questions regarding Trump and abortion. Those questions are not as irrelevant as you may think. People smartly assume that the BOE position is only a stepping stone in a politician’s career. It is legitimate for voters to ask whether any politician, from a dog catcher to president, will respect the foundation of our democracy, legal precedents, rule of law, and respect the voters’ right to choose their own government. What Trump and Jan 6 made clear is that the Republican Party will sacrifice our democracy at the altar of power. The number one lesson you should have learned from your huge loss is not to align yourself with the wrong people.

  7. Great synopsis Peter, it accurately describes what is wrong with California politics and how the electorate has been indoctrinated to follow a single party platform that has only led to the decline of the once Golden State.
    When the fragile voting public cannot even listen to an alternate viewpoint or celebrate diversity of opinion they lose an educated perspective, not even realizing they are celebrating bigotry and fascism over democracy.
    Most of these voters have no idea of what the mission statements or services performed by any of the unique political offices that they vote on each election that is why we have so many unqualified office holders that cater to voters “feelings” over the actual needs.

  8. “Highway off ramps sheltering drug addled zombies.”

    They’re people, not zombies.

    “If Californians voted by acreage, I would have won.”

    Fortunately, land ownership as a condition of suffrage was eliminated by about the mid 1850s.

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