A new Republican group wants to take a fresh approach to politics in Costa Mesa, California, by bridging divides between people, its founders say.
The organization—called the Greater Costa Mesa Republicans (GCMR)—is a spin-off from the Greater Irvine Republicans (GIR), and “was basically started because we wanted to bring a fresh, active group of conservatives into the city’s politics,” co-founder Ben Chapman told The Epoch Times.
What separates the GCMR from other groups is that “we’re not just a strictly partisan organization,” Chapman said. “We’re going out there and we’re talking to residents and informing them … no matter if they’re Republican, Democrat, NPP [No Party Preference], or Independent.”
During the March 9 special election for a vacant seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Chapman, 34, said some GCMR members went to Costa Mesa City Hall to hand out “goodie bags” to voters to thank them for casting their ballots.
“We didn’t ask if they were Republicans or Democrats, who they voted for—nothing. We just wanted a way to show that their vote matters, and just thank them for voting. So that’s kind of what our outreach is. We’re not a far-right partisan organization. We want to talk to everybody,” Chapman said.
Chapman said a woman told him she was pro-choice and held other views not typically supported by Republicans, yet “talked to us about school in Costa Mesa and how she’s disappointed in the route that Costa Mesa is going with regard to schools.”
“She knew we were Republican, but she just wanted to talk and there was no partisan bickering. There was no negativity. It was just local issues that had nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats,” Chapman said.
The GCMR board of directors and its new members share core conservative principles, and want to do a better job of keeping all local residents informed on issues regardless of their party affiliation, he said.
Vice chair and co-founder Henny Abraham agrees. The 34-year-old told the Epoch Times that “even though we are politically affiliated, we are not completely exclusive to Republicans.”
“We are a grassroots organization” that wants to work for “the greater good of the city,” Abraham said, adding that people don’t have to be residents of Costa Mesa to join GCMR. “As long as you want to be an active member to get any candidate from local all the way up to governor elected, you’re welcome in our club.”
Both Abraham and Chapman pointed out that they represent the diversity of Republicans. Abraham said she was born and raised in Iran, while Chapman is Hispanic and gay.
Both ran unsuccessfully last November for seats on the Costa Mesa City Council, in District 6 and District 2 respectively. They said they lost their races because of vote splitting. Chapman was endorsed by former Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel, who was elected to Congress, and former state Sen. John Moorlach, who lost to Democrat Katrina Foley in the special election to replace Steel.
“So we have prominent figures who endorsed both of our campaigns,” he said.
Abraham said she plans to run again, as a Republican-endorsed candidate in the 2022 mayoral race in Costa Mesa. She expects to officially kick off her campaign in May.
Steel and Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker are slated to speak at GCMR’s official kickoff event on April 29.
Chapman is grateful for the party’s blessing. “I really appreciate that they see us as a great new organization that’s ready to go out there, help campaigns, and volunteer our time any way we can,” he said.
John Park, the first vice chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County, told The Epoch Times via email that although groups like GCMR are not part of “an official franchise, we are pleased to see these grassroots groups emerge.”
Park also founded the Greater Irvine Republicans and said he was happy to see GCMR pay homage to his group’s legacy with the similar naming. “What do they say? Mimicry is the highest form of flattery.”
Impressed with the work GIR had done in Irvine, Chapman said, “I wanted to take what they created as an amazing organization and bring that here to Costa Mesa.”
The six-member GCMR board “consists of four Republican millennials and two highly experienced board members with years of community organizing,” Chapman said. The other board members include Scott Andersen, 30, membership director; John Russo, 23, social media director; Craig Chapman, 62, treasurer; and Brad Abraham, 38, secretary.
GCMR aims to uphold basic conservative principles and advocate for limited government, fiscal responsibility, transparency, and public safety. “We are about three things: getting active members and volunteers to assist in campaigns, hosting fundraisers for candidates, and getting Republicans elected to local office,” said Chapman.
The group has already identified a few policy points for its focus, including opposing a proposal to put up large LED billboards that it says would flash regularly and distract drivers and residents. It is also against bringing retail cannabis to the city, questioning the tax revenue it would provide.