By Ken Stone
As a ruby-red Republican in superblue San Francisco, Harmeet Dhillon says GOP members there have to be “hard-core.” Thursday in Coronado, she burnished her credentials.
Dhillon acknowledged the “chaotic week in D.C.” — including House passage of Obamacare repeal and the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.
But on the way to lunch at the Republican National Committee’s Spring Meeting at the Hotel del Coronado, the 24-year lawyer calmly backed Donald Trump’s recent actions.
“The only thing … I see uniting Democrats is hatred for our president,” she said after a 90-minute Rules Committee meeting. “That’s not really enough of a campaign slogan — because your average rank-and-file voter in the states is concerned about health care, education, safety, security, taxation.
“And unless the Democratic Party offers more solutions than just hating our president, I don’t think they’ve got a persuasive message.”Dhillon, 48, lost a 2008 race for Assembly and a 2012 bid for state Senate (by 69 points), but she’s not yet losing sleep about the 2018 midterm elections.
“It’s very early,” she said. “Obviously, the Democrats are going to galvanize around anything they see as controversial.”
But voters in the end are not concerned about “the minutiae and what happens inside the Beltway,” she said. “They’re concerned what happens with their pocketbooks, their children’s education, their national safety and security.”
“So I think it’s going to be a long way off before I get very concerned about what’s happening in D.C. If anything, I think a lot of members — Republicans and Democrats — here in the state are frustrated at lack of action in Congress, less so than what’s happening in the White House.”
At the Republic National Convention in Cleveland last year, the Indian-born Dhillon drew attention after offering a Sikh prayer in Punjabi and English.
Two months ago, news reports said Dhillon — elected to the RNC a year ago — had been interviewed in Washington to run the civil rights branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Times of San Diego didn’t ask about that job in a brief interview Thursday, but she showed her legal chops when answering a question about whether a special prosecutor was needed to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.
“It’s not my place to weigh in on that [issue] really,” she said. “But from a macro perspective, I share Justice Scalia’s view questioning the constitutionality of independent prosecutors who are not in the Department of Justice.”
Dhillon didn’t see the need for such an inquiry now — although she’s aware of calls for it.
“But I think those calls are largely partisan in nature,” she said. “There seems to be no evidence in what I’ve seen.”
Asked if she’s considering another run for office, she said: “I don’t think so. I enjoy being a lawyer, and I enjoy being a volunteer citizen supporting my party. And that’s what I do.”
Dhillon is one of 56 members of the RNC Rules Committee — a key group responsible for deciding how convention delegates are chosen and how the party convention is run. A year ago, amid talk of a brokered convention and a “Stop Trump” movement within the GOP, its smallest moves were closely watched.
At the group’s April 2016 meeting in Hollywood, Florida, reporters packed the Diplomat Resort & Spa. Randy Evans of Georgia — a committee member in Coronado as well — “half-joked about how even changing a semicolon to a comma could inspire scrutiny and stir outrage,” said one account.
But at the Hotel Del, only a handful of media watched the proceedings. (The session was streamed on Facebook Live.)
No drama attended the election of Jeff Kent of Washington State as new Rules Committee chairman. He was the only candidate. (And the bulk of the meeting was given to a dry PowerPoint lecture on existing rules by John Phillippe, RNC chief counsel.)
But Kent, a former radio talk-show host who runs a lubricant company, offered a fiery pep talk in the hotel’s circular ballroom with six massive chandeliers.
Saying he was “really charged up about this committee,” he hailed its members as “the best of the best in politics.”
“We’re going to come up with a set of rules that we’re proud of,” Kent said. “I do have to warn you up front, though: It’s not going to be easy, and it’s certainly not going to be quick. It’s going to take all of those three years in order for us to complete our work. But we will do so by using a process that is open and fair and orderly.”
The rules will go to the RNC’s 168 members for approval — and eventually to the convention for adoption.
“Those rules will go on to be the foundational document of the strongest and most successful political party that the world has ever seen,” Kent said, voice rising. “And that party is going to re-elect Donald J. Trump in 2020.”
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