Two GOP presidential candidates will try to break Donald Trump’s iron grip on media attention Thursday when they speak at the 42nd annual meeting of ALEC.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Times of San Diego will stream appearances by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Bookmark this page for the live feeds via Periscope or follow Times of San Diego on Twitter.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas will not appear Friday as previously announced, said ALEC spokeswoman Molly Fuhs. He informed organizers that he has Senate votes planned that won’t allow him to make the trip, but may send a video greeting.

State Sen. Joel Anderson of East County, ALEC’s public state chair for California, said he admired Cruz “for putting his day job first.”

“The people that forget their current obligations to their constituents — they’re not the best to be promoted to the higher offices,” Anderson said Wednesday.

The Republican presidential hopefuls visit as polls show Trump’s popularity growing and time narrowing to gain a spot in key televised debates.

  • Walker is set to speak at the plenary breakfast, 8 to 9:15 a.m. Thursday.
  • Huckabee follows at the plenary lunch, 12:30 to 2 p.m. Thursday.

Fuhs (as in foosball) said all presidential candidates, including Democrats, were invited to the San Diego ALEC meeting.

“We reached out to the [Hillary] Clinton campaign, and she unfortunately declined,” noted Fuhs, who said one of ALEC’s goals is “building bridges.”

Meeting at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego, 1,300 members and guests of the American Legislative Exchange Council — business leaders, policy experts and lobbyists — will trade ideas with conservative office-holders amid a series of outside protests.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is scheduled to “pop in” at a private reception Wednesday night, Fuhs told Times of San Diego. Faulconer’s presence is attacked in a change.org petition with more than 1,900 signatures.

The meeting schedule includes a Wednesday policy workshop moderated by former Chargers placekicker Rolf Benirschke, chief patient officer at San Diego-based Legacy Health Strategies.

The workshop is titled “Building an Infrastructure for Innovation: The Drug Discovery Process and the Promise for Patients.”

ALEC, which calls itself a think tank for “state-based public policy issues and potential solutions,” has a mix of meetings — some open to news media and others not.

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Similar policy groups exist on the left, including the National Conference of State Legislatures and SiX, the State Innovation Exchange.

Tuesday on KPBS radio’s “Midday Edition,” ALEC’s role was debated by county Democratic chair Francine Busby, county Republican vice chair Ron Nehring and San Diego State political science professor Ron King.

Nehring pushed back against contentions by Busby, saying: “The notion that ALEC is some secret organization … is just ludicrous.”

Addressing the former candidate for Congress, he said: “How many times a day, in your Democrat-controlled Sacramento, are lobbyists walking in … handing over bills they want? The corporations in the state overwhelmingly favor your party.”

Busby replied that Sacramento lobbyists report their gifts with “full transparency and acccountability.”

King said: “I guess I’m embarrassed sitting in the middle between two cheap political shots going on.”

Speaking to Nehring, who in 2014 ran for lieutenant governor, the SDSU professor said: “You’d be a C-minus student in my class because you can’t really answer a question directly.”

ALEC 2015 report on “Rich States, Poor States” (PDF)

When Nehring began to reply to moderator Maureen Cavanaugh’s query about what he hoped would come out of the conference, he labeled Busby and King “leftists.”

“Excuse me, that’s unfair,” King shot back angrily, “and it’s cheap, and you should apologize.”

Nehring declined to apologize, and King replied: “Then you’re a fool, and I’m going to say that bluntly.”

With time running out on the segment, Cavanaugh broke up the scrum and gave Nehring a chance to answer her question.

He said he looked for “a lot of further sharing of ideas and best practices” at the three-day meeting — “that people on the left don’t like to hear about.”

Nehring urged listeners to download ALEC’s latest report on “Rich States, Poor States.”

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