- Photos by John R. Lamb (left) and David Rolland
—Sir Philip Sidney
A month removed from yet another election thumping at the hands of Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis, Republican firebrand Michael Crimmins seems relaxed.
Sitting at the same Point Loma coffeehouse where Spin Cycle first got to know this irascible retired Marine major and local GOP outcast last February, Crimmins has jettisoned the dark suit of the campaign trail for jeans and a pullover. Smiling, he hands Spin Cycle a rectangular campaign button with his mug on it as a memento.
Last time we sat down, candidate Crimmins had just made news in quite an unusual way by publicly questioning the integrity of the local and state Republican Party leadership. Subsequently, citing alleged “racist and violent remarks,” the county’s GOP Central Committee voted to remove Crimmins as an ex-officio member. Spin Cycle watched as security guards escorted him off the premises of the Town & Country Resort in Mission Valley after his ouster.
Some local political observers at the time viewed the whole episode as something straight out of junior high school, with anonymous whispers and in-party backbiting dominating the incident. It also led to Crimmins receiving no help from the local GOP in his second attempt to unseat Davis, whom he still gleefully calls “Nancy Pelosi’s puppet.”
Crimmins indeed still seems in campaign mode. And, he quickly notes, he was also a winner on Election Day. He simultaneously ran for a seat on the Central Committee, coming in third in his district and earning a return to the arena that ousted him just 10 months ago.
While he has no special plans for his return when the committee next meets Dec. 13 (Spin Cycle suggested bringing his own security detail), the 62-year-old Marine does have a mission.
“In order for the county Republican Party to be viable, we have to have a change of leadership,” Crimmins said. Tops on the list to go?
GOP Chairperson Tony Krvaric.
As it happens, the local GOP will choose its leadership at that Dec. 13 meeting. Crimmins said he will make the case that while the local party scored some victories in the recent election, the record was wholly dismal at the state and federal levels.
While his public clashes with Krvaric— Crimmins calls him the head of a “thug-ocracy” who plays favorites—might have made him persona non grata in the party, he said he was particularly offended by the lack of support other local Republican candidates received, specifically combat veterans like himself, Nick Popaditch, Rick Powell and others.
“There are a lot of candidates out there who were basically shafted by Krvaric,” Crimmins said. He noted as an example not only his omission from the party voting guide but also a curious printing error that had Popaditch running in Crimmins’ 53rd Congressional District. Popaditch actually lost to Rep.
Bob Filner in the 51st district.
“I mean, here you have somebody—I’m talking about myself here—that was elected by the people to represent them, and then he totally blows them off,” Crimmins said, referring to his June primary win. “What’s that all about?” Powell, a retired Marine and Green Beret who ran and lost against much more heavily financed state Assemblymember Marty Block in the 78th district, said he understands the animosity between Krvaric and Crimmins, but he didn’t want to point fingers because “I’m not going to make it a personal issue at all.”
But Powell confirmed that he has distributed an e-mail to party faithful urging an evaluation of “everything in this state because of our failure to take any seats at the state and federal levels. I said we need to evaluate all positions, to include candidates, leadership, policies and why we’re not getting Republican voters to turn out, which they didn’t in California where they did in many other places.”
Crimmins also referred to this “invisible barrier” that somehow prevented California from reaping the similar wave of discontented voters that washed over much of the country in November. “It just stopped,” he said.
“That was kind of disappointing.”
While Crimmins puts the blame square on the foreheads of Krvaric and state GOP Chair Ron Nehring, Krvaric’s local predecessor rumored to be interested in a post at the national level, Powell suggested that party leaders may have “recognized the fact that we weren’t going to win. And, in fact, at the state and federal level in California, we didn’t win one seat.”
In his e-mail, Powell asks, “The big question to me is why the wave of new Republican seats stopped at the California border. Did we do something wrong? Are Californians different than other Americans? Did our leadership fail us?”
Powell goes on to write: “I am encouraging all who are on the governing San Diego Republican Party Central Committee to evaluate their decisions and to be prepared to recognize failures within the County Party…. If it is the leadership within the Party that failed us, then it should be changed…. Is there someone who is better?” Krvaric declined to comment on the prospects of his own ouster as chair, a position he’s held since 2007. He’s had little comment on the topic since a website, RetireTony Krvaric.com, popped up anonymously, detailing allegations of financial and ethical shenanigans and references to his youthful past as a computer hacker.
Crimmins also called for a “forensic financial audit” of party spending “to see where the money is going.”
Asked if he knew who created the anti- Krvaric site, Crimmins was momentarily silent. “I know there are a lot of people who are gunning for [Krvaric] to get him out of here,” he said. “He’s ethically challenged and a thug whose modus operandi is to intimidate, threaten, harass and coerce. He’s a divider, not a uniter.”
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