California chef de chambre Zaremberg has advice for the GOP

California is changing, so politicians and voters must change with it or lose.

That’s the farewell advice from Allan Zaremberg, the outgoing president of the California Chamber of Commerce, after four decades of dealing with lawmakers in Sacramento.

For 23 years as speaker of the house and chief executive, Zaremberg, 71, has been Sacramento’s most influential business representative, attempting to influence the governor and the legislature.

He skillfully handled the job despite the Capitol being increasingly fueled by Democrats. The House has gained more than it has lost.

His strategy certainly changed as the worker-backed Democrats became a one-party regime and the business-friendly Republicans fell into near relevance.

Thus, Zaremberg and the chamber have practically abandoned the losing GOP which has not changed with the state. Businesses have stopped relying on the party for legislative help. Instead, he has focused in recent years on trying to elect moderate Democrats who will listen to business concerns.

One argument most Democrats and voters ignored was chamber and retail opposition to Proposition 47 in 2014. Zaremberg largely blames this measure for the recent spate of theft. by organized criminals in upscale stores in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Among other things, the proposal reduced many property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. He reduced the theft of property valued under $ 950 from a possible felony to a misdemeanor. No jail time. Probably a slap on the wrist – if no prosecution at all. In 2020, voters rejected Proposition 20, which would have amended 47 by lowering the crime threshold to $ 250 for many team thefts.

“No doubt, Proposition 47 created a problem,” Zaremberg told me. “If you steal $ 900 in certain counties, you’re probably going to be sued. But in San Francisco and other counties, you probably aren’t. This creates a culture in some jurisdictions where retail theft is acceptable ”

Zaremberg began working in Sacramento for the State at the time of Atty. General George Deukmejian. He followed Deukmejian, a Republican, into the governor’s office in 1982, eventually becoming his main legislative lobbyist. He also held the post for a year with Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, then lobbied for the chamber before becoming its president in 1998.

California politics changed a lot during Zaremberg’s career.

When Deukmejian was elected governor, Republicans could still elevate candidates for statewide office. They represented 35% of the votes recorded; Democrats 53%. In the September gubernatorial recall election, Republicans made up just 24% of registrations, Democrats nearly 47% and non-party independents 23%. Many voters abandoned the GOP and became independent.

No Republican has been elected to a statewide post since 2006. And in the Duke’s day, Republicans were competitive in the Legislature – especially because passing the budget required a two-thirds majority vote. Now Democrats have a qualified majority and the budget can be passed by simple majority. No GOP vote is necessary.

Republicans have taken a nosedive in the past 25 years.

“California is changing, and you have to change with it to survive,” Zaremberg says. “If you can’t evolve when everything around you is evolving, you will be left behind. “

Zaremberg means it’s general advice for everyone, not just politicians and the GOP.

But “obviously the demographics of California have changed,” he notes, and that has helped Democrats a lot.

The GOP began to fall after Wilson passed Proposition 187 in 1994 while running for re-election. The measure would have cut most public services – including education – for immigrants living illegally in the country. He came by in massive numbers, spurred on by an ugly TV commercial created by Camp Wilson. But the proposal was eviscerated by a court.

It was a perfect storm for the California GOP. Democrats cleverly demonized Wilson among Latinos. And the Latin American population has grown dramatically – in terms of citizenship and on the electoral rolls, on the Democrats’ side. And now they are the largest ethnic group in California.

But Zaremberg doesn’t want to criticize his former boss Wilson.

“History usually defines you by how you react to the crisis,” Zaremberg explains. “Wilson had an earthquake, fires, floods and his crisis response was likely to rank him among the top governors. Then Proposition 187 obscured that.

“It took precedence over how history assesses both terms rather than as someone who handled crises better than anyone.”

A major downfall of the GOP was that “it didn’t recognize the changing demographics and didn’t embrace these constituents,” Zaremberg said. Republicans have failed “to find a way to get them into their agenda.”

“They were like, ‘Yes, we did.’ But the registration numbers say otherwise.

Zaremberg suggests a sports analogy for the GOP: “Did you execute your game plan? Was the game plan correct? Well, look at the score. But it’s still the first quarter looking to the future. You have to change your game plan.

The House leader tried to push immigration reform forward when Republican George W. Bush was president.

“So many residents have been here for 15 years or more and are part of the community and the economy, we should find a way to make them legal [residents], “he says.” Originally our goal was to make them citizens. But it was not a good political approach. So we tried to develop bipartisan support for them to become legal residents.

“The lack of legal status creates uncertainty and fear. And there would be a stronger economy if companies knew they could be hired legally.

“The problem in Washington was that a lot of Democrats weren’t willing to accept it. And that’s what has to happen.

Sacramento loses a modern rarity: a practical Republican.

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