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Lincoln Club – Putting California’s GOP back together

BY: Bill Whalen

In the English nursery rhyme, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again (another version puts the body count at “four-score men and four-score more”).

As for California Republicans – a faction, its critics would have you believe, that lacks rhyme or reason – a select few repairmen stand out.

Jim Brulte – the first-year chairman of a state party that dipped to an anemic 29 percent of the California electorate, doesn’t hold a single statewide office and is decidedly in the minority in both chambers of the state Legislature – has lectured Golden State Republicans on the need to take the fight to Democratic-friendly communities.

Ruben Barrales, a former aide to President George W. Bush and GOP candidate for state controller in 1998, now heads Grow Elect, a political action group focused on recruiting and electing Republican Latinos.

Here’s a third name to remember, on the Republican road away from perdition: Martha Ryan, until recently the first woman to chair the Lincoln Club of Northern California and now co-head of one of the club’s three PACs – her effort dedicated to underwriting GOP minority candidates in the Bay Area and beyond.

Nearly three years ago, Ryan took over a group that, despite a rich history of richly giving to top-tier Republican politicians and a well-heeled membership residing in some of the nation’s most exclusive ZIP codes along the Bay Area peninsula, had all of $9,000 in the bank. She quickly changed that by hiring a smart executive director (Joe Patterson, a former state Assembly aide), recruiting new members (not an easy task, given the GOP’s demoralizing losses nationally and locally in 2010 and 2012), and by holding star-studded events featuring the likes of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and, on a separate occasion, three former U.S. secretaries of state. Under her watch, membership grew; the club’s coffers were replenished.

Once her chairmanship ended, Ryan didn’t leave politics behind. Though involved with her son in a startup that has revolutionized peer-to-peer lending and also engaged in California’s educational-reform struggle (Ryan supports Students Matter, which is traveling the litigation route to shake up California’s public schools), she persuaded the Lincoln Club to step up its commitment to candidate recruitment – political peer-to-peer lending, if you will.

Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow and a former speechwriter for Gov. Pete Wilson. Reach Whalen at [email protected]