BY VIC POLLARD, Contributing writer | Sunday, Mar 20 2011 08:11 PM
Last Updated Sunday, Mar 20 2011 08:15 PM
SACRAMENTO – The California Republican Party dealt a major blow Sunday to an effort by the Kevin McCarthy-Mark Abernathy political organization to prevent a merger of two groups of young GOP activists.
As the latest development in a bitter, behind-the-scenes battle that has been going on for nearly two decades, delegates to the state party’s convention in Sacramento endorsed the merger of the California Young Republicans and the Young Republican Federation of California by a vote margin of nearly two to one.
Although McCarthy, the majority whip in the House of Representatives, is one of the most powerful Republican officials in the state, the incident underlines the limits of his ability to control events in the fractious California Republican Party. Abernathy is McCarthy’s campaign consultant who, through his Bakersfield firm Western Pacific Research, represents a thick roster of local and regional elected officials holding seats at all levels of government from school board to Congress.
The vote was the most dramatic event yet in a long-running campaign by the Kern faction against the Young Republican Federation of California. The Kern faction once filed a lawsuit to halt the other group’s use of the term Young Republicans and fought a number of political guerrilla battles in a largely unsuccessful effort to bar the group from gaining official party recognition.
McCarthy and other Kern County delegates, however, insist the fight isn’t over. They’re pinning their hopes on a court case pending in Los Angeles that they believe could overturn the merger. The merger was ratified last month at a convention of members from both groups.
The volunteer groups endorse political candidates and promote party interests, often manning phone banks and canvassing neighborhoods for local candidates.
The new statewide group is called the California Young Republican Federation and is chaired by Adam Abrahms, a Santa Monica attorney. Like the two separate groups, it consists of local clubs of 18- to 40-year-old activists throughout the state.
Abrahms and other supporters of the merger said there is no longer any reason for the split, which occurred in 1993. That’s when conservative members of the established California Young Republicans left and formed the Young Republican Federation of California.
They were frustrated by what they felt was heavy-handed control of the CYR by the more moderate Kern County GOP organization, which at the time was headed by Bakersfield’s now-retired Rep. Bill Thomas. Most statewide offices of the CYR have long been held by Bakersfield GOP insiders or their allies.
Both sides now say the two groups have come to contain both conservatives and moderates. Merger supporters say few if any members of either group were involved in the original split and most don’t understand the reasons for it.
But the Kern group has fought against the merger since it was proposed about a year ago.
On Sunday, McCarthy said the move was an illegitimate effort by the upstart group YRFC to take over the CYR.
Despite the merger, Andy Stanley of Bakersfield told the convention that he is chairman of California Young Republicans, which he said remains a separate group.
Opposing a proposed state GOP rule change to officially sanction the merger, Stanley, who works for Kern County Supervisor Karen Goh, told delegates: “It is inappropriate for us to have a top-down decision that would impose a decision on the volunteer organization’s internal dispute resolution process that is currently under way.”
That was a reference to the court case. It arose after Stanley and others filed for mandatory arbitration of their claim that Jenniffer Rodriguez, who was then serving as CYR chairman and was the chief proponent of the merger, was not legitimately elected to the post and was not qualified to act for the group. Another CYR official, Rohit Joy, was also named in the arbitration demand.
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