Out of Sight, Out of Minds

Local Republicans band together for safety

Since May, things have gotten worse. By mid-January, when the assembly last met, the "declined to state" registration numbers grew even more, reaching 20.7 percent of city voters. Republican registration, meanwhile, dropped to 14.59 percent, according to the Department of Elections.

If that's not enough, the GOP Central Committee itself -- a 31-member elected body charged with managing Republican affairs in San Francisco -- lost most of its funding in 1997 because of campaign finance reform, has closed its office, and is $17,000 in debt. In the neighborhoods, the registration numbers are bleak. Chinatown is down. Even the Marina District is down. "This is not a wonderful picture to contemplate, to be sure," Casper said.

The solution? Casper suggested the local Republicans reconsider a pair of controversial GOP stands -- the party's position on abortion and its "anti-immigrant rhetoric" -- saying, "Once [immigrants] are here, they're not going away."

Chastened by the sagging registration numbers -- and fearing infiltration by rogue liberals -- members in January approved a pair of resolutions to protect the assembly's integrity.

The first new rule requires members to wait 60 days before they can vote on club matters. The second strips voting rights from anyone found to be not actually registered as a Republican. The offending party, however, may regain a vote in assembly activities after a 60-day waiting period if he or she registers GOP. Sparks urged members to attend meetings and to get the word out, with the hope that someday the assembly will become a player in city politics.

"Let's say we're working in that direction, to be a real force, to have a modicum of respect," Sparks said.

Until then, assembly members will at least have one another. As Dennis Norrington, a "fiftysomething" businessman and lifelong city resident, said at the group's December meeting, "It's a pleasure to see some good conservatives here in San Francisco. It's been pretty dead up until now.

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