RNC Says Calif. Leaders Can Change Rules

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

SACRAMENTO – The Republican National Committee has told top California party leaders they can change their voting rules to allow independents to vote in the presidential primary.

Party insiders say the change seems unlikely, however, given the GOP’s long-standing antipathy to the idea. The issue may come up at the state party convention in September.

Changing the rules could help a moderate Republican, such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, especially since California’s Feb. 5 primary may come early enough to influence the nominating contest.

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Democrats already allow independents to vote in their presidential primary, and GOP moderates say they must follow suit to remain viable in California. Decline-to-state voters make up about 19 percent of the electorate and are growing, while registration in both major parties is shrinking. But GOP conservatives say only registered Republicans should choose the party’s presidential nominee.

The Republican National Committee has set a Sept. 4 deadline for state parties to finalize their voting rules. But RNC Treasurer Tim Morgan, a national committee member from Santa Cruz who is on the state party board, said the general counsel has told him that changing the rules a few days later during the convention would meet the deadline.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supports allowing independents to vote.

Currently, 42.5 percent of California voters are Democrats and 34 percent are Republicans.

NEW YORK (AP) _ Taking a page from MeetUp.com and other online organizing pioneers, supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will host 400 house parties to watch her square off with her Democratic rivals in Monday’s presidential debate.

The parties are sponsored by Club44, an effort by the Clinton campaign to recruit younger female supporters.

Ann Lewis, who heads the campaign’s women’s outreach effort, said the idea came from California, where Clinton supporters have hosted informal debate-watching parties throughout the campaign. It’s been steered at the national level by a group of campaign interns, using weekly e-mails to Clinton’s mailing list. The parties will take place in Washington, D.C., and in most states.

Clinton spoke by conference call to party organizers Wednesday, Lewis said.

Actors Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson will do a pre-debate warm-up call to the parties, and other notable Clinton supporters will phone the parties afterward.

The debate, in Charleston, S.C., is being hosted by CNN and YouTube, the online video sharing site.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Republican Mike Huckabee, who raised $764,000 in three months and has $437,000 for his presidential bid, on Thursday accused his better-financed rivals of needlessly spending campaign money.

“I really don’t want some folks in charge of the federal treasury if the way they’re burning campaign money is indicative of how they would burn taxpayer money,” the former Arkansas governor told reporters in a conference call.

Huckabee’s fundraising was dwarfed by the top-tier GOP candidates. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani raised $17 million during the same period _ including $2 million that can only be used in the general election _ and had $15 million cash on hand. Mitt Romney raised $14 million, loaned his campaign another $6.5 million, and had $12 million in cash.

Arizona Sen. John McCain reported raising $11.2 million for the period, with $2 million cash on hand and nearly as much debt.

Huckabee said of his campaign: “You will not find a more frugal operation than ours and you also not find a more efficient, better miles per gallon.” He did not single out any opponents specifically.

Associated Press writers Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Ark., and Catherine Tsai in Colorado Springs, Colo., contributed to this report.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)