The Republican Party's anti-tax litmus test is becoming much more rigid and localized. And in some cases it is leading to party efforts to purge elected officials.
This past month, the political world stood in amazement as longtime Republican Arlen Specter -- facing a heavy backlash from Pennsylvania Republicans -- switched his party affiliation and became a Democrat. The defection was attributed to a bout of ill-fitting philosophies and political opportunism on Specter's behalf. The senator, RNC Chairman Michael Steele declared, had voted himself out of the Republican Party.
Perhaps. But in California, the purging of Republican pols unwilling to take the party line on economic issues is becoming systemic. Under the national radar but making news in the state, recall efforts have been launched targeting several GOP officials for voting with their Democratic colleagues on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget. One of the members in the spotlight is Assemblyman Anthony Adams, whose alleged indiscretion was simple: the budget he supported called for a state-wide vote on raising income and sales taxes and car-registration fees. In other words, in the eyes of his fellow party members, he had voted for a tax increase.
Embraced by two prominent Orange County Republicans, a recall petition declares that Adams "broke his tax pledge" and "must go."
The wrath Adams has endured was also directed at three other California Republicans. Conservatives have also pledged to cut off the fundraising for two other elected GOP officials. Even Schwarzenegger himself -- who famously came to the governor's chair via a recall campaign -- has watched as a recall effort has been launched to replace him. The number of signatures needed to oust a governor, however, makes the likelihood of this happening far less. The process, nevertheless, has left operatives and insiders shaking their heads.
"What's happening with Republicans in California is the very definition of a circular firing squad," said Karen Hanretty, a Republican strategist who has done work in California. "They have a golden opportunity right now to capitalize on statewide voter anger expressed at the ballot box Tuesday, which summarily rejected tax increases and incompetent governance in Sacramento. But rather than recognize this opportunity and address voter frustration with a Democrat-controlled legislature, they're cannibalizing each other from within."
The aggressive anti-tax sentiments are not unique to the California GOP. Earlier this week Nassau County Executive and former New York gubernatorial candidate, Thomas Suozzi launched his reelection campaign for a third term. The tone he struck during his announcement led one Democratic operative to quip that it was decidedly tea-party-esque and "party-of-no."
"You know, I love the job of county executive. I had the opportunity to do what I've always dreamed of doing, to build things, to solve problems, try and help people," said Suozzi. "But there's still a major problem we face. It's property taxes. And this year's campaign is going to be about a property tax revolution."