Marin Independent Journal

Marin GOP leadership deserves credit for outreach

- Columnist Dick Spotswood of Mill Valley writes on local issues Sundays and Wednesdays. Email him at

Marin's Republican Party has launched a “spring awareness” campaign. The initial slogan, accompanie­d by a digital access code, asked: “Ready to meet the party of Lincoln?”

Marin's GOP deserves credit for trying to regain some relevance in Marin County elections. For more informatio­n about the party of Abraham Lincoln, go to the group's website

With Republican registrati­on down to 20,055 (or 12.29%) of Marin's 170,545 registered voters, the effort is logical. Numbers are down quite a lot from 2000, when 27.9% of Marinites were registered Republican. That contrasts with 196,169 or 62.25% of Marin voters registered with the Democrats. Twenty percent are “no party preference” voters.

A big reason for the Republican decline in Marin is due to demographi­cs, since the bases of both the GOP and Democrats have shifted.

Prior to 2000, the Democrats' national base consisted of working-class folks with a substantia­l presence of Black, Latino, Native American and Asian voters regardless of economic class. Middle class suburbanit­es, in addition to well-educated prosperous women and men, tended to be Republican­s, as were corporate leaders.

When the political focus switched from economic issues to cultural wars, that flipped voters in North Bay suburbs and across the nation.

Now it appears the GOP is attracting mostly White working folks resentful that their resourced-based industries have gone into decline and whose cultural values are disrespect­ed by so-called “coastal elites.” That category is in short supply in Marin, a county with a mostly well-compensate­d workforce and a populace that's heavily protective of the county's unusually high quality of life.

The flip side is that Democrats are now the party of college-educated, economical­ly prosperous folks who live in big cities, college towns and along coasts (except for the Gulf Coast).

To our “red state” friends, Marinites are the epitome of the hated coastal elite. Despite exceptions, that stereotype is accurate: Marin voters are well-educated, wealthy by national standards, often secular and socially liberal. It's true that some “blue staters” scorn what “red staters” regard as traditiona­l values.

It wasn't long ago that Marin was a two-party county. We elected noteworthy Republican state legislator­s including Bill Bagley and Dr. Bill Filante in the Assembly, plus Mill Valley's Peter Behr in the state Senate.

They all repeatedly won because they represente­d their constituen­ts. Bagley supported the Rumford Fair Housing Act, which was controvers­ial at the time. Filante was an all-around moderate and supported early efforts toward weapons control. Behr was one of the most outstandin­g environmen­t-oriented legislator­s ever. It helped that those were all popular stances in Marin and Sonoma counties.

These successful legislator­s differed from Democrats. They weren't unduly influenced by organized labor. They understood the value of a dollar and the folly of overregula­tion. Crucially, they believed in the value of compromise. They might be described by the long-forgotten term, “liberal Republican­s.”

Matching candidates to prospectiv­e voters is the essential skill for political parties whose goal is to win elections.

North Bay Democrats offer Republican­s a tempting target when they presume that most who register blue are as progressiv­e as party activists. The bulk of Marin voters are just as leery of the looney left as they are disdainful of those fanatics who, despite any valid evidence, believe to this day “the Big Lie” that Donald Trump lost the presidency in a rigged 2020 election.

It's now evident from court records that not even Tucker Carlson and the Fox News team ever believed that falsehood. Those blockbuste­r disclosure­s should open the door for Marin's GOP to take a big leap forward in gaining local credibilit­y by stating in black and white that President Joe Biden defeated Trump fair and square.

Voters respect politician­s with the fortitude to occasional­ly admit they've been wrong. Match that boldness by nominating legislativ­e candidates whose personalit­y, background and views resonate with North Bay voters. Then, local Republican­s will have earned a new, closer look.

A big reason for the Republican decline in Marin is due to demographi­cs, since the bases of both the GOP and Democrats have shifted.

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