I sat down with San Mateo County Republican Party Chair Chuck McDougald on Friday morning at the start of the California Republican Convention in Burlingame. The state Republicans get together twice a year, but with an exciting primary season still in full swing, this convention is especially interesting. McDougald, a Vietnam veteran and South San Francisco resident, said that although he won’t publically endorse a candidate, he thinks anyone on the ticket can beat Barack Obama.
What’s it like being in the minority party in San Mateo County?
We represent 21 percent of the voting population in San Mateo County. The Democrats, I think, have double that. So we’ve got a long way to go. As Republican chair of San Mateo County, you take baby steps to accomplish your long-term objectives. Every day we try to recruit one more Republican to come into the party. Sooner or later that one will come in and bring some more people to introduce.
How do you feel about the lack of Republican representation in local South San Francisco politics?
First, we’re all Americans; we all love our country. They have different beliefs than we do, and that’s all. I have tons of Democrats that are my personal friends, and we get along fine. For the first time I’ve heard in a long time, a lot of Dems are calling us and saying, ‘we’d like to talk to you,’ because they are so upset over the last three years and the president.
Is primary season a time when being a California Republican counts more on a national scale?
Yes. That’s one of the reasons we have conventions. There are newspaper, radio and blog reporters all over the place, wanting to know what’s going on, and they’re getting the word out. We’ll have our share of national news media just for the convention.
How did you get to be San Mateo County Republican Chair?
I got involved in 1999 helping John McCain with his 2000 campaign. And in 2008 I was asked to run the veterans coalition and ran that for John, and then the last six months of the campaign in 2008 I was veterans chair for western U.S. We ran a good campaign. Veterans are easy to organize. In 2010, Carly Fiorina asked me to head all her volunteers.
How does California’s primary system work?
Every state is a little different; that doesn’t matter. Through time-honored tradition and the rules of the Republican Party, they arrive at their own way to vote for their candidate of choice. We do the same thing.
In June, we’ll have our primary. We think that the nominee will be chosen by then. Probably by March—Super Tuesday—although some people think that the chosen person won’t receive the required number of delegates by then.
We hope that they don’t. We hope the June primary in California will play a role in choosing a nominee. But I don’t think so.
Which presidential candidate do you endorse?
As county chair, I won’t give my personal opinion. Everyone on my executive committee has their choices, and I encourage them to get involved in the campaigns, but I choose to remain neutral. As soon as we choose a nominee, we’ll put all the resources of San Mateo County behind them.
What do you most enjoy about the convention?
I’ve traveled up and down the state [as part of volunteer and campaign efforts]. I’ve got a lot of friends up and down the state. This is about the only time I get them together to break bread.
Given the recent emphasis on social issues from the Republican Party, with some now saying that focus is a mistake, what role do you think social issues will play among California Republicans? What issues are important to California Republicans?
I think the social issues will be a part of choosing a nominee. Are they more important in California than other states? I don’t know. But across the board, I don’t care if we nominate that gentlemen right over there [pointing to a random person in the lobby]. I think he can beat Obama; I think anyone can beat Obama.
Obama’s not going to run on his record. Obama’s going to attack the nominee. With gasoline at $4 a gallon, with unemployment as high as it is, he cannot run on his record.
Any last thoughts?
Enjoy yourself, and I know you will, because we’re Republicans. It might be one of the few times we’re in the majority.