DAVIS — If the 4th District Assembly race feels like a sibling rivalry for Davis Democrats, a tussle between two local Republican candidates has its own intrigue.
From Esparto comes 59-year-old Charlie Schaupp, retired farmer and Marine Corps reserve officer, a self-styled Reagan conservative hell-bent on cleaning up Sacramento.
From Davis, there’s 28-year-old legislative staffer and University of California, Davis, undergraduate Dustin Call. He hopes to embody a new, more-moderate direction for his party.
They’ll face three Democrats in the June 3 open primary: Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza, Davis Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk and Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd.
There’s more than the support of the registered Republicans – 25.7 percent of district voters – in the balance for Schaupp and Call – there’s a say in their party’s direction. Candidates who advance beyond the primary choose delegates to the state central committee.
Republican Party activist Charles Munger Jr. paid the $952.91 filling fee for Call and for several moderate candidates in blue districts across California.
“The party’s in a superminority right now. There’s a reason for that,” Call says. “I think it’s because too many people have failed to – maybe ‘adapt’ is the wrong word – but they’ve not done a good job at giving voters a reason to give them a serious look.
“I’m afraid that’s going to continue if we don’t put up people who take a different approach. I fear that Charlie can’t do that.”
Schaupp wants the GOP to stay the course as “the party of ethics and responsibility.”
“That’s what it takes – for Democrats and independents to say, ‘They’re not baloney-ing us,’ ” Schaupp says. “Some people think we need to change and be more moderate, and have more ethnic candidates.
“For me, there’s only one race: the human race. My wife happens to be from Korea, my sister-in-law is from Mexico – I don’t care, they’re just people. What means something to me is someone I can trust.
“That’s the future of the Republican Party: putting honest, honorable people up there, and not necessarily playing some of the games that some within the California Republican Party are playing.”
Schaupp, endorsed by Napa and Sonoma Republicans, has been an energetic campaigner; Call, who has the backing of the Yolo GOP, has been a no-show at events, so far. He explains, “I’ve got to provide for my family and, you know, I’m working for the people, so it makes it hard to take time off.”
The Solano GOP does not endorse in the primary when more than one Republican is in the race.
Call left a job as an aide to Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, recently to become a district representative for state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. That’s the same Nielsen whom Schaupp calls “my nemesis.”
Schaupp in 2010, despite spending little money, collected 44.2 percent of the vote in an Assembly race against the incumbent Nielsen by battering him on questions about his Woodland residency and accepting more than $55,000 in per diem pay over two years.
The Republicans face an uphill battle in the 4th District. Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, who is being termed out of her seat, received more than 60 percent of the vote in 2012, and neither man has raised much money.
It’s on social issues where Call says he draws a line between himself and Schaupp.
“I truly do believe in the principle of limited government, but I think that applies to all those other issues as well,” Call says. “I’m in a biracial marriage – my wife’s Latina – and there was a time in America where biracial marriages were illegal. I can’t imagine someone telling me I couldn’t marry her just because she has a different skin color.
“Whatever my personal views on social issues, like abortion, gay marriage, they’re my personal views. A lot of them are faith-based; I don’t think I have any place in telling the rest of the country whether two people of the same gender can get married, whether someone has a right to get an abortion.”
Asked about voting on matters related to marriage or abortion rights, like taxes or health care funding, Call says, “I am not going to get into hypotheticals,” but that he would adhere to his limited-government beliefs.
He and Dodd, as self-described moderates, might have similar views on some issues, Call says, but the two are not interchangeable: “(In the Capitol), he’s still a Democrat. He’s part of that caucus. At the end of the day, a lot of members are looking out for their jobs and are voting along party lines. A lot of Republican voters who might vote for him need to consider that.”
Schaupp says he wouldn’t seek to impose his conservative views on social issues; he’d vote with the majority of Californians.
“I don’t think gay marriage is a good idea – I have no problems with civil unions – but I’m not going to stand against (gay marriage if) that’s what the people say,” he says.
“I think life begins at conception. I understand why sometimes medical professionals (want to be able to perform abortions), because of the health of the mother. I understand why some people, especially ladies, want that ability in case of an unwanted pregnancy.
“But wouldn’t it be nice if, in the future, it wasn’t part of the discussion because we weren’t creating unwanted children to begin with? When you look at the futuristic stuff like ‘Star Trek,’ they would never consider abortion.”
Democrats Krovoza and Dodd say they may have some common ground with Schaupp on fiscal matters, but Krovoza insists it’s important to take steps to address climate change; Schaupp doesn’t. Dodd questions whether Schaupp has any interest in addressing income inequality.
Wolk finds no similarities: “I can’t think of a more diametrically opposite person from me, politically, than Charlie.”
The Democrats say they have not yet heard Call speak on the issues.
About the suspensions of three Democratic senators over alleged wrongdoing, Schaupp says, “We’ve got the same kinds of problems on the Republican side, they just haven’t hit the fan yet,” so someone must tell voters the truth.
The so-called “11th Commandment” – that is, not bad-mouthing one’s fellow Republicans – does not extend to “scallywags and scofflaws,” he says.
“As we say in the Marine Corps, a politician will go with what way the wind blows, but a leader will tell you the truth, even if it’s not what you want to hear,” he says. “Without that, we’ll not have a government that people can trust.”
Schaupp calls term limits “a good idea that failed.” He’d like to see a citizen’s commission address special-interest spending on elections. He’s also no fan of legislative staffers – he labels them “a de facto legislature.” If there are term limits, he says, they ought to apply to staff, who also should be restricted to their day jobs and not allowed to work as consultants.
Schaupp says state government should amount to only “necessary services.” He says “one-size-fits-all” environmental regulations are “killing the goose that laid the golden egg” – the state economy. As an example, he singles out gasoline formulas, meant to curb air pollution, which he says are needed only in urban areas. He also opposes cap-and-trade.
“If you get the environmental interests and the air boards off of business and reduce regulation, and start trusting Californians to do what’s best again for California, the economy will take off,” Schaupp says.
State spending is “absolutely foolish,” he says, with Exhibit A: price tags for high-speed rail, which he calls “the bullet train to nowhere,” and Exhibit B: the governor’s proposed Delta tunnels plan.
Schaupp signed the Service Employees International Union pledge because he agrees with the union on general principles, like urban development and putting people to work, he says, not because of specific policies. He’s a supporter of pension reform.
“CalSTRs and (CalPERS) are going to break the bank,” he says of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, respectively. “We’ve got to be honest about it and say, ‘We can’t continue spending as we’re spending.’ ”
Schaupp isn’t entirely opposed to expensive projects. Dams are one example.
“We’re going to have to build dams in places like Auburn or Cache Creek or Mill Creek or a host of others,” he says.
The vice president of the Yolo County chapter of the California Republican Assembly, retired UC farm adviser Tom Kearney of Dunnigan, backs Schaupp.
“He is a college graduate in agriculture and a longtime farmer. He’s so much more knowledgeable about water than the other candidates,” Kearney says. “His military background helps him; as far as management, he’s quite a good speaker and his family has been in the area for generations.”
A former Esparto school board member, Schaupp also wants more money spent on education. He’d like to see college tuition reduced to as little as “$250 or $400 a semester.”
“The easiest way to make it fair, whether your dad is a billionaire or a farmworker, is to have low tuition and have the people of the state of California step up and pay the cost,” he says.
A senior political science major at UC Davis, Call says Schaupp’s nearly free tuition idea is unrealistic, but that he believes tuition can, and should, be lowered.
“It’s impossible to pay for school,” Call says. “The middle class is disappearing. Those wealthy enough to pay for a good portion of their education can’t qualify for any financial aid. Students are being saddled with all this student loan debt, that I worry is going to blow up like the housing bubble did.
“Some people might think I’m trying to appeal to (young) people who aren’t going to vote, but plenty of parents have children going through school – and many have children who’ve gone through school who are back, living in their houses, or are on their health plans. It’s rough for everybody.”
He’d increase the funding to all levels of public education by “streamlining all of the bloated bureaucracies that exist in almost every sector, including our education systems.” Administrative costs, in particular, Call says, need to be brought under control. Also out of control: public pensions, he says, particularly in higher education.
Unemployment in the state is still too high, Call says, so the Legislature cannot take its eye off of job creation.
“We need to let local governments do things that will create great environments for small business,” he says. “For manufacturing, that industry could benefit a lot from tax credits, incentives to bring manufacturing jobs back here to California.”
Echoing the other candidates, he says more needs to be spent on infrastructure, especially roads and water storage.
Call uses public transit almost daily, but says he wouldn’t increase spending on it. He opposes high-speed rail as planned.
Call, like Schaupp, dubs himself a “conservationist,” something instilled in him on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. He, too, believes environmental regulation keeps businesses from growing.
“The (California Environmental Quality Act), especially – we need to take a look at that,” he says.
The chairman of the Yolo County Republican Party, Mark Pruner, says that Call brings “a Davis perspective” to the GOP.
“There’s a lot to be said for being young. It’s a really good thing,” says Pruner, an attorney who lives in Clarksburg. “I’ve known Dustin for several years. He’s very dedicated to the people in the district. He’s traveled the district.
“If he’s elected, he wouldn’t walk in owing anyone any favors because he’s more of a grassroots candidate.”
Reach Cory Golden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cory_golden.