California “Green Republicans” network at conventions
By Katie Zakrzewski
Over the last five years, there has been a growing movement of CCLers, Republican and Democrat, tabling at California’s GOP convention. They are referred to as members of CCL’s Conservative Caucus and Friends of the Caucus. This fall’s convention was an opportunity for a new strategy — a skilled group of right-leaning members of CCL chapters across The Golden State attended, participated, and some voted as delegates of the CA GOP.
“We’ve been to the state GOP convention six times, always with a table,” says Craig Preston, a Conservative CCL member. “CCL empowers new ideas and in 2015, Rob Beggs, CCL’s Chair of the Conservative Caucus was a voting CA GOP delegate. He put out the original call for CCLers to help with a table.”
This table featured environmental quotes from President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State George Schulz. CCL tablers were well versed in conservative actions for climate such as Nixon’s start of the EPA and President Reagan’s actions on ozone, among other points.
Over the years, Craig says that he’s noticed an uptick of conservatives who approach the CCL table, thankful that climate-concerned Republicans are attending the convention.
Some creative outreach has helped connect with these attendees. In 2019, CCLers started to use raffle prizes at the convention to educate conservatives on the importance of climate.
“We gave out footballs, hats, bags, and bottles of my hometown’s Martinelli’s apple juice because climate change has made our apples harder to grow,” Craig said. “To enter the raffle, visitors were asked to fill out a postcard identifying which conservative environmental politicians they agreed with.”
This year, Craig passed out flyers with current information about how farmers and young Republicans support immediate climate action. Elizabeth Fenner, another conservative CCL volunteer and one of California’s CCL state coordinators, spoke up in skill-building sessions. Members such as Tim Dec influenced breakout sessions on resolutions and rules, Tess Bernard networked with social conservatives and College Republicans, and Mark Tabbert worked the hallways.
Craig ran into previous contacts and would be heard saying, “We are here supporting what the Chamber of Commerce is doing on the climate. We think our candidates will do better with market solutions. What do you think?”
Creating deeper connections
One of the opportunities available to participants at the GOP Conferences is attendance at several banquets with California GOP members. Four of the CCL volunteers who attended the recent GOP conference in San Diego donated their own money in order to attend one banquet, valuing the opportunity to engage with the attendees in an informal setting.
Those conversations built trust and created connections that have been growing with CCL engagement at Republican events, like the conference.
Going this extra mile from within the GOP environment has allowed California’s right-leaning CCL members to sit amongst members of Congress and congressional candidates, all of whom were eager to hear the concerns of fellow California Republicans. Such an opportunity allowed CCLers to talk about the importance of a free-market solution through pricing carbon, as well as passing out hundreds of flyers.
Elizabeth emphasized the importance of being upfront when networking.
“I told people from the start that I was a Green Republican. Those who didn’t want to talk further stopped. But those who did want to talk further — we had some interesting conversations, and I tried to spread the news about the economic and conservative advantages of climate policy.”
A noticeable shift
Elizabeth explained a trend that she’s noticed after attending several conventions.
“The people who seemed most receptive to hearing about climate issues were candidates, who need talking points about climate for any set of potential voters. We CCLers provide a friendly source of information, and this year we had the biggest CCL team of registered Republicans. It makes a difference.”
Elizabeth discovered that California Republicans are often considered different from conservatives in different states, but that it can be a good thing.
“I think the California conservative caucus was one of the first conservative caucuses. There are a lot of Republicans in this state, as well as farms, and fires. All are tied together, and all have a big impact on California and this country.”
At a time when more conservatives are feeling the effects of climate change, such as droughts, wildfires and flooding, people look to their party for answers.
“I tell people, and told people at these conventions, that I’m tired of Republicans not having a voice in climate, and there was universal agreement,” Elizabeth says.
Big players taking notice
The hard work of CCL Green Republicans is paying off. State and federal Republicans in California have spoken positively about CCL and a carbon price.
On his 2020 campaign site, state senate candidate Alex Glew spoke of CCL and a carbon price, saying, “I support the Fee and Dividend energy plan and H.R. 763. I introduced language similar to it as an update to the environment plank of the CA GOP party platform this last year.”
CCL Green Republicans in California have benefited from speakers on calls by CCL’s National Conservative Caucus with notable speakers, one of whom was Gabe Collins, the Baker Botts Fellow in Energy & Environmental Regulatory Affairs at Rice University’s Baker Institute. Collins spoke positively of the economic impact of a carbon price on international trade and the economy. These topics are of interest to California and National GOP members.
As time goes on, it has become clear that CCL conservatives — especially in California — have worked hard to connect with influential voices on the right side of the aisle. Their hard work is paying off.