I walked my first precinct in 1998. I registered Republican in late 1997. I met Josh Cook, Brian Dahle’s Chief of Staff in 2002 when the Late Sam Aanestad defeated Dick Dickerson for State Senate. Josh Cook was his on the ground campaign manager. Doug LaMalfa’s current Chief of Staff, Mark Spannagel was a young kid staffer for Dick Dickerson.
In many regards the 2019 SD01 Special Election completed the loop on a lot of things. In between 2002 and 2019, I’ve seen enough to write a book about. I wish I could say most of it was good, I can’t. 75% of it (or more) is in between infuriating and disappointing.
Kevin Kiley’s 2019 SD01 failure is a microcosm of what not to do as a candidate and of the problems that plague the California Republican Party / Legislative Caucuses.
I’ve written about Ted Gaines and Tom McClintock many times and the crap they have pulled over the years. I helped get both of them elected – mostly as a volunteer. I helped a candidate against then Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa in a State Senate race, LaMalfa hammered him and election night was the last time I ever talked to him. 8 years after our role in electing him to the State Senate, the Late Sam Aanestad attempted to repay mine and my brother’s loyalty to him by trying to walk out of two months of George’s pay as a staffer that traveled statewide with Aanestad for his LG race in 2010. George had to sue him (and George won). Before he died, Aanestad attempted to interfere with our attempts to establish the Impact Republicans.
Almost everyone with a heritage in politics can tell you a story about getting stiffed on invoices for services, being taken advantage of as a volunteer, being lied to, double-dealt on, completely forgotten by the candidate/elected, betrayed, turned on, discarded for a better offer and the like. Things like Tom McClintock promptly discarding the then Placer CRA leadership, the 2010 SD04 Race, the 2010 LG Race and other similar incidents are why I do paid politics and rarely volunteer anymore.
This memory bank of experience is why I am disappointed but absolutely not surprised in the slightest by the foibles of Kevin Kiley. Kiley was too smart for anyone else out there and played everything way too close to the chest so people never knew his intentions. I’ve seen all these screw ups before. Let me give you a top ten list of screw ups as a tutorial for you in case you run for office.
#10 Be careful which endorsements you tout. Attached here is a mailer featuring Vern Pierson. Pierson was nearly defeated by a candidate that had no organized campaign in 2016. Vern Pierson is the DA in El Dorado County. He has twice run for State Senate and is alleged to be lining up for a run to succeed Frank Bigelow in AD05. Pierson has a few problems in his own county to address before running for anything else. It is the opinion of this blogger that Kiley’s disappointing finish in El Dorado County was in part secured by featuring Pierson in his campaign mail.
#9 Don’t fake the funk. If you are an Ivy League Educated Attorney – admit it. If you ran for Assembly as a Deputy District Attorney, don’t be surprised when your opponent points out you were a deputy for Kamala Harris’ AG Department. (The only reason the local media jumped on this is because they love Kamala Harris, otherwise they could care less) A cornerstone of Kiley’s campaign was to avoid his real background.
#8 Don’t lie about your background. If you tell people you prosecuted criminals, prove it. (It is easy to do) If you really are a Cattle Rancher, a piece of paper filed with the Secretary of State’s office is not proof, but some photos and receipts of business activity would prove it. Kiley got hammered on both issues, and successfully so as the local media did not have a Kamala Harris to protect.
#7 Be true to yourself. Two of the biggest rumors your intrepid blogger heard about Kevin Kiley is about his residence and his orientation. Kiley has to know everyone in the building is talking about both issues – why not settle them? I am more concerned about the lack of honesty than I am about which team he plays for. The issue of residence is a problem for legality sake, it is rumored Kiley lives in a Condo in Sacramento as opposed to a rented house in Rocklin. Kiley can end speculation on both issues by straight up answering them. Kiley does not owe your intrepid blogger an explanation, rather he should explain it to those asking in and around the building.
Part of the reason the brokeback mountain meme resonated with so many people is that Kiley made a fake cattle company and won’t give straight answers to most questions (including about where he lives and his orientation). Were Kevin on record, the meme loses most of its’ humorous punch.
#6 Leveraging Debt. This is one of the most classic tricks in the book. Donors resent it, but it is done frequently. Incumbent members run for another office and spend themselves in to huge debt (Kiley has 128K he admitted to as of 5/20/2019) and then leverage their incumbency to pay it off. This practice usually has a career limiting effect as the donors will contribute to an incumbent but will never help said incumbent again. There are some rare exceptions such as when an incumbent member tells people well in advance about a chosen candidate running to succeed them, and a deal is made, etc. Kiley was too smart for anyone else out there and played everything way too close to the chest so people never knew his intentions.
#5 Take real stands on issues. When asked about the Abortion Issue, Brian Dahle would say, “I am Pro-Life”. Kiley would filibuster for 5 minutes. I’ve written ad-naseum about this in various and sundry blogs about Kiley. Waffling is fatal in a campaign. Kiley’s failures allowed Dahle to dig in to his constituencies in Placer County even though it appears Dahle and crew spent little or no money in Placer County. Think of how much larger Kiley’s margin would have been in Placer had he just been willing to take stands on issues. Kiley’s coalitions nearly collapsed in El Dorado County as he went from hammering Dahle in March to just a 13% win in June.
#4. Don’t get caught trying to have it both ways. Kiley launched a bomb against Dahle to democrat households attacking President Trump. Problem, Republicans heard about it too. Kiley also attacked Dahle over the immigration issue while having considerable weakness in that area as well. Kiley endorsed John Kasich and has been circumspect about support for President Trump, and his mailer attacking the President actually undermined his position with that regard.
#3 Do not complain about your opponent doing things you are doing. Kiley took money from PG&E and sent a misleading attack regarding PG&E funding Brian Dahle’s campaign. Kiley complained about left-wing unions funding independent efforts to boost Brian Dahle’s campaign after benefiting $300K from David Crane’s (a frequent Donor to democrats) rampage in 2016. While lambasting Unions and other institutional donors, Kiley was desperately soliciting leftist bay area (and out of state) donors in the last month before his defeat.
#2 Do not threaten people. This is one of the most common blunders. I’ve never seen or heard of Brian Dahle doing it himself. I’ve been told by dozens of people that Kiley is vindictive and has a temper. Apparently, he called several people and let them know just what he thought of them and what he was going to do to them after they endorsed Brian Dahle. He also did the same thing in person to others, some of whom called me directly to tell their story. Mr. Kiley is about to learn that people never forget stuff. People I set fire to back in 2002 are still walking around with burn scars 17 years later. When you do this as a candidate, it has a tendency to shorten your political career or limit you to being a back bencher congressman sitting in a safe seat. Ted Gaines had to live the last 10 years of his political life threatening people just to end up in the dead end Bd of Eq. The last thing you want as an officeholder is to be known for holding grudges and being vindictive. Because it feels good at first, then you are dependent upon it to live in office and then it kills off your political career.
I went from extreme disdain for Jim Nielsen to voting to re-elect him in 2018. Holding grudges is simply not worth it. Making a list of people to get even with is just not worth it. For as much as I dislike McClintock over his actions in office, I voted to re-elect him in 2018 as well because he is a vote for Trump 99% of the time.
#1 Don’t solicit advice and then ignore it. Almost as frequently as your intrepid blogger was queried about Kevin Kiley’s personal life, people would volunteer details of their conversations with Mr. Kiley. A common theme was Kiley asking questions and soliciting opinions that were almost immediately discarded. This is a terrible way to govern and live. Nothing tells someone how low you regard them than casting an aura of superiority, by discarding their opinions as useless -a pattern made even worse by Kevin’s youth and lack of life experience outside of law school. It was also clear that Kevin Kiley was sending out campaign emails and press releases without the consent of Dave Gilliard his consultant. The message was reactionary, defensive and inconsistent, as was Kiley’s campaign.
Kiley’s campaign exposed a fatal flaw in the California Republican Legislative Caucus. Kevin Kiley was basically rewarded for sitting on $450K in his Assembly Account and not sharing it with his colleagues. When I checked Brian Dahle’s website, I noticed that only a fraction of people that he helped financially as leader endorsed him. I also noticed that a fraction of sitting legislators endorsed him. It is a sad commentary as Dahle raised over $1MM to help his caucus. He also emptied his own Campaign Account, knowing Kiley was hoarding his money.
This sends three messages. #1 it is useless to help other Republican Members as they won’t reciprocate. #2 You can be selfish and get away with it. #3 There is no cohesion or unity in the shrinking California Republican Legislative Caucuses.
Your intrepid blogger is of the opinion that Kiley ran for State Senate to better position a run against Tom McClintock post 2022 redistricting. That plan did not work out too well. To fund a future run, Kevin Kiley will be almost 100% dependent upon the Bay Area liberals from the Charter School Movement – whose influence was shattered in 2018 as they lost some marquee races. ($15 MM on Antonio for one)
Kevin Kiley also has an additional problem, no one really knows who he is or where his values truly are.
If Kiley draws a credible opponent for Assembly in 2020, it could be an interesting situation, but the system is rigged against such an occurrence even after what Kiley did. This is yet another reality that rewards bad behavior by incumbents.
The bottom line, Kevin Kiley is in it for himself. What a waste of promise and talent.