Cook Too Liberal, Donnelly Says In Announcing 8th District Run

Former State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who reached for the brass ring and failed to grasp it when he gave up a safe State Assembly seat to make a quixotic run for governor in 2014, is looking to rekindle his political career.
Having painted himself into a corner by virtue of his brand of attention-grabbing right wing politics in a state now dominated by left-leaning Democrats, Donnelly is doubling down with his conservative rhetoric, announcing on Monday he will challenge 8th Congressional District incumbent Congressman Paul Cook next year. Cook, a Republican with fair to middling conservative credentials himself, holds office in the midst of one of the last bastions of Republicanism in the state. Donnelly’s war plan is to reprise his ultimately failed effort to unseat Cook in 2016, and this time make an even more intensified denouncement of Cook as too liberal for his constituents, while representing himself as a rock-ribbed and pistol-packing true believer who will fight the good fight and prevent the Republic from falling into the hands of the bleeding heart liberals who are dead set on destroying the country, something the weak-kneed Cook is incapable of pulling off.
Donnelly’s move and the tenor of his statements going into the campaign illustrate the contentiousness between Republicans in California and elsewhere, and the somewhat ill-defined nature of the liberal/conservative divide in the party, together with some of the factors that Democrats in the Golden State believe could trigger reversals in the GOP’s hold on several California Congressional seats that might result in the House of Representatives swinging back under Democratic control next year.
Donnelly has long celebrated himself as conservative Republican. While denouncing Democrats and liberals generally and calling for establishing Republican primacy at the state and national levels, Donnelly has on a number of occasions found himself at odds with the Republican establishment, even as he was pursuing several of his own party’s goals. He garnered a degree of notoriety with his participation in the founding of the Minuteman Party in California in 2005 and for a time, he appeared to have found a niche in the heavily-Republican leaning 59th Assembly District, to which he was elected in 2010 in the aftermath of Anthony Adams’ political implosion.
In March 2011, shortly after he became a member of the Assembly, Donnelly sought to intensify his “conservative” bona fides by appearing before the California State University Fresno Student Senate Committee, where he advocated the removal of Pedro Ramirez as elected student body president. Ramirez had been the driver in a single-vehicle accident in which he was injured when he hit a tree in January 2011. This led to the public revelation that Ramirez was not a citizen, that he had been brought to the United States by his illegal alien parents when he was three years old, that he was not registered as a resident and was therefore an illegal alien himself and that he had been driving without a license, since at that time illegal immigrants were not permitted to have a driver’s license. Noting that Ramirez had broken at least three laws and was under investigation by state and federal authorities, Donnelly asserted Ramirez should be removed as student body president. Donnelly’s presentation was met by ridicule from the students in attendance.
The following year, Donnelly’s contention that the privilege to hold elective office should be revoked upon the office holder’s involvement in a crime was tested when he himself was arrested on January 4, 2012 for attempting to board an airplane at Ontario International Airport with a loaded Colt handgun, after Transportation Safety Agency security screeners discovered the gun, which was not registered to Donnelly and for which he had no concealed weapons permit, in his carry-on luggage.
Donnelly insisted what had occurred was “a regrettable but innocent and honest mistake.” Two months later, in March 2012, he entered into a plea bargain, pleading no contest to carrying a loaded firearm without a concealed weapons permit and possessing a firearm in a “sterile area.” He was given no jail time other than the time he was in custody after his arrest and a sentence of three years’ probation, assessed a $2,215 fine, and hit with a prohibition from using, owning or possessing any firearm not registered to him.
That travail, however, had no appreciable impact on his electability, as with the redistricting that followed the 2010 Census, the portion of the 59th District in which he lived, Twin Peaks, was absorbed into the even more staunchly conservative 33rd Assembly District.
Though it was very likely that he would be able to be handily reelected in the 33rd Assembly District in 2014, Donnelly very early into his second term as assemblyman, in January 2013, announced he would run for governor the following year. Though for a time Donnelly appeared to be well on his way to carrying the Republican standard into the governor’s race against incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown, elements of the Republican Party establishment moved to support Neel Kashkari, the wealthy son of Indian parents, whose mother was a physician and whose father was an electrical engineer. Neel Kashkari was himself a mechanical engineer who subsequently returned to college, graduated from the Wharton School with an MBA and later became the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He was subsequently appointed by President George Bush as the undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury. During the 2014 primary campaign, Donnelly’s campaign inadvisedly and inaccurately sought to suggest Kashkari, a Hindu of Indian lineage, had “supported the United States submitting to the Islamic, Shariah banking code” during his tenure in the Treasury Department. This brought solid rebukes Donnelly’s way from several stalwart Republicans, including Congressman Darrell Isa and California Republican Party Vice Chair Harmeet Dhillon. “This type of stupidity disqualifies Tim Donnelly from being fit to hold any office, anywhere,” Issa said.
In the June 2014 California open primary, Democratic incumbent Jerry Brown won with 2,354,769 votes or 54.3 percent and Republican Neel Kashkari came in second with an 839,767 votes or 19.4 percent of the vote, qualifying for the general election. Donnelly placed third, with 643,236 votes or 14.8 percent. There were 12 other candidates vying in the race. Donnelly refused to recommend that his supporters back Kashkari in the November election, alienating the Republican establishment further.
In 2016, Donnelly tried to bounce back, vying against Paul Cook, the incumbent in the 8th Congressional District in the June Primary. Donnelly managed to capture 24,886 votes or 20.7 percent, putting him in third place behind Democrat Rita Ramirez, who polled 26,325 votes or 21.9 percent to Cook’s 50,425 votes or 42 percent. There were two others in the primary race. In the November general election, Cook went on to trounce Ramirez 136,972 votes or 62.3 percent to 83,035, or 37.7 percent.
Donnelly is again intent on challenging Cook next year. Cook, a Marine Corps colonel who was stationed at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, went into local politics upon retirement, running for the Yucca Valley Town Council and then vying for and winning a seat in the California Assembly in the 65th District in 2006. For two years, from 2010 to 2012, Donnelly and Cook were Republican colleagues in the Assembly, and seemed to get along. In 2012, Cook moved up to run for Congress, which was made possible by longtime San Bernardino County Congressman Jerry Lewis’s retirement. Lewis held office in the 41st Congressional District, a portion of which was redistricted into the 8th Congressional District following the 2010 Census.
“It’s official. I’m running for Congress!” Donnelly said in a mass email on Monday. “It’s time to put America First, drain the swamp, and retire establishment members of this ‘do-nothing’ Congress. So, I’m running for Congress in California’s 8th District.”
In making his announcement, Donnelly sought to portray Cook as a quasi-liberal and appeal to the far right element of the Republican Party. He used similar language to that used by President Donald Trump in carving out a victory over Hillary Clinton last year. Donnelly said he was running “as a long-standing hardcore American Patriot, former Minuteman leader and California State Assemblyman—you can look up my record for all the details, but most people describe me as the ‘Trump before Trump’—just without the hair and the billions. You may not be in my district, but you know that I’ll be a leader in that one great cause that unites us all: liberty. And I’ll fight to restore government to its original purpose: Defending rather than infringing our God-given, natural rights. I’m running to give President Trump a strong ally in the House, a leader who will push to make America great again.”
Donnelly said he would work to assist President Trump in building a promised wall at the Mexican border, and “enforce our immigration laws, end sanctuary cities, repeal ObamaCare, not replace it, defend and protect the 2nd Amendment, oppose forced vaccination mandates, put our veterans first, enforce the travel ban, end the Obama refugee program and keep our communities safe from radical Islamic terrorism. I will uphold and defend the Constitution as written, period. I will always stand for our flag and the freedom it represents, and kneel to no one but God.”
Donnelly’s challenge of Cook comes as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has announced it will seek to reverse the Republican hold on the U.S. House of Representatives by targeting 61 Republican Congress members, including seven in California. At present there are 240 incumbent members of Congress who are Republicans, 194 who are Democrats and one vacancy.
The seven Republicans targeted by the Democrats in California are Jeff Denham from Turlock in the 10th Congressional District, David Valadao from Hanford in the 21st Congressional District; Steve Knight from Palmdale in the 25th Congressional District; Ed Royce from Fullerton in the 39th Congressional District; Mimi Walters from Irvine in the 45th Congressional District; Dana Rohrabacher from Costa Mesa in the 48th Congressional District and Darrell Issa from Vista in the 49th Congressional District.
The Democrats are not targeting Cook, given the strength of the Republicans in the 8th Congressional District. However, Donnelly’s challenge will likely result in Cook expending considerable campaign funds to stave off a Republican challenger, meaning he will not be free to provide money from his campaign war chest to assist other Republicans.
      -Mark Gutglueck

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