San Diego County GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric
San Diego County GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric said of 2018: “If we don’t field a candidate, 167 non-Republicans are going to win by default. … ‘Continue my crazy socialist, leftist policies.’” Photo by Ken Stone

The San Diego County Republican Party’s longtime leader may follow Rep. Darrell Issa out the door at the end of 2018.

Some 19 hours before the North County congressman shocked the political world by announcing he wouldn’t run for a 10th term, Tony Krvaric provoked groans at a La Mesa meeting of GOP women.

“This will be my 12th year” as county GOP chairman, Krvaric told a Brigantine Restaurant luncheon Tuesday. “I hope and I think this will be my last year,” suggesting it was time for “some fresh blood — someone with an easier name to pronounce.”

GOP women’s club President Kat Culkin displays a new suggestion box. Photo by Ken Stone

Cries of “Noooooo!” and “What?!” followed that remark at the monthly meeting of the Navajo Canyon Republican Women Federated.

A powerful but controversial elected chairman since 2007, Krvaric also told the audience of 70: “2018 is gotta be it. I promised my wife, although she tells me — ‘yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it.’ I’ve promised it so many times.”

Asked for details afterward, Krvaric declined to comment, but stressed: “I did not say I’m stepping down. I’m not stepping down. My term is up in December.”

Club Campaign Chair Waskah Whelan, a former club president, told Times of San Diego that everyone in her group would love to see Krvaric — who turns 47 next month — keep his post.

She expressed the hope his committee’s executive board might talk him into staying.

“He says that every year,” she said of retirement hints. “He’s been saying that for years (about his wife). The wife maybe [wants] him home to do the laundry.”

Whelan says he might be serious this time, but “who knows?”

“He doesn’t know when he’s going to retire, and we don’t want him to retire — because he’s funny, isn’t he?” Whelan said. “A very funny man.”

That was on rich display during a half-hour talk and Q&A at the upscale seafood diner at the foot of Mount Helix.

His main job, he said, is helping Republicans win elections — “from dogcatcher up to president,” even “mosquito districts,” alluding to pest-abatement or vector-control agencies.

“I don’t know what mosquito districts do — but they should have Republicans in them,” he said. “So whatever they do is done in a fiscally responsible and prudent way.”

The Scripps Ranch resident — president and CEO of Krvaric Capital & Risk Management — said he was seeking candidates for the 167 county seats not held by Republicans.

“It’s Democrats, Communists, Left-Handed People Party — all kinds of weird people, right? We don’t believe in trusting them with anything important,” he said. “No sharp objects.”

He urged the female audience (with a few men) to consider running: “Why not you?”

John Horst, challenging Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in the 52nd District, says he aims to attract millennials to the Republican Party. Photo by Ken Stone

He posed common objections such as “Running for office — that’s for someone else.” Or “I can’t run for school board. My kids are grown.” Or: “I can’t run for City Council. I don’t know the insides of how government works.”

His response drew laughter.

“Guess what. That’s a plus,” he said. “If Donald Trump has taught us anything, people are thirsty for genuine regular God-fearing normal commonsense candidates. Not slick politicians.”

He insisted to “everybody here” that “if you can balance your checkbook and you’re a registered Republican … you are qualified to run for office.”

Krvaric said 180 county seats in 2016 were held by non-Republicans, and the GOP fielded 57 candidates — with 17 of them winning.

“So there are 17 more Republicans there and 17 fewer from the farm team on the other side — 17 fewer people doing damage to our country, right?” he said.

As an example, he mentioned Coronado school board member Esther Valdes.

Cathie Johns addresses fellow club members on her opposition to DACA without other immigration control efforts. Photo by Ken Stone

“At the last minute, we walked her down” on the final filing day and beat the 5 p.m. deadline by 20 minutes. “Nobody had filed for that seat. So we pulled a fast one on the other team,” he said. “And she won by default.”

[In fact, Valdes defeated Molly Louise Zohn 67 percent to 33 percent for a short-term seat in November 2016.]

Krvaric said San Diego County “could be Montana territory” — a GOP bastion — if every Republican voted.

“We don’t need to register any more Republicans,” he said. “If we just had the Republicans that we have and got them all out to vote, this would be solid Republican. Literally every office. They have San Francisco; we’ll have San Diego.”

[Although Republicans dominate the Montana legislature, that state’s Democratic Party holds five of six statewide offices, including Gov. Steve Bullock. And U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is a Democrat.]

Finally, Krvaric said another way to help elect Republicans is becoming a donor or volunteer, highlighting the work of precinct captains.

He promoted the county GOP’s annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner, with tickets to the major fundraiser costing $250 apiece.

Last year’s featured speaker was Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. This year’s could be another Palmetto State star — former Gov. Nikki Haley, now the U.N. ambassador.

County GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric swears in Ginny Wisely to a club committee chairmanship. Photo by Ken Stone

“This time we’re working on somebody from the Trump administration,” Krvaric said. “We’d love to see the president. But if the president is not available, Nikki Haley would be kind of cool.”

The GOP women roared in approval.

“[Defense Secretary] Jim Mattis would be another fantastic” speaker, he said, drawn by the prospect of visiting local troops.

He summarized how Republicans differ from Democrats.

“Democrats believe in collectivism,” Krvaric said. “They believe in elites — people who know [they] are smarter than you because you don’t know, can’t be trusted to decide how you want to carry out your groceries. God forbid you bring it out in a plastic bag.

“So all the items that are wrapped in plastic, you can’t carry them out in plastic. I call the Republicans the ‘leave-us-alone coalition.’”