Political notebook: Nunes called 'sellout,' 'RINO' for opposing shutdown

Fresno Bee staffOctober 4, 2013 

Devin Nunes


For more than a decade, Rep. Devin Nunes has been about as reliably Republican as they come.

Never one to shy away from controversy or to speak his mind, the Tulare Republican has openly touted a conservative political agenda.

He has called opponents of a new reservoir above Lake Millerton "radical environmentalists."

He has clashed with congressional Democrats and spent a good amount of campaign cash waging a political war against Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

In his book titled "Restoring the Republic," Nunes said environmental lobbyists were "followers of neo-Marxist, socialist, Maoist or Communist ideals." Global warming claims were called "hysteria" spread by a "Doomsday cult."

So it's startling that this week Nunes has been attacked by some Republicans — especially Tea Party members — for not being far enough to the political right.

He has since been called a sellout, a capitulator and, a favorite of Republicans who feel some politician isn't holding up the party's principles, a RINO — or "Republican In Name Only."

It all came after Nunes referred to his hard-line Republican House colleagues as "lemmings with suicide vests" for letting the government shut down over opposition to the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

For the record, Nunes opposes the law. But he thinks shutting down the government over it is a losing strategy for his party, and one that could hurt it politically in the long run.

"All I'm doing is stating the obvious, that we don't have the votes," Nunes said Friday in an interview. "I'm now a RINO because I can count."

In other words, the Senate isn't supportive of the House's strategy to shut down the government over Obamacare, and even if it was supportive, there aren't the votes there to override a veto by President Barack Obama.

Nunes has been attacked by fellow Republicans in the media, in calls to his office and even on his Facebook page. People are threatening that he will get a political challenger from his own right next year.

Michael Der Manouel Jr., a Fresno businessman and conservative Republican, doesn't question Nunes' conservative credentials, and certainly doesn't consider him a Republican In Name Only.

But, he said, Nunes "needs to choose his words more carefully when he's not happy with whatever (Republican) strategy is going on."

And Der Manouel sounds like some of Nunes' Facebook critics when he says the Tulare Republican should "stop worrying about tactics and start worrying about your country." It is, Der Manouel says, a political face-off against rival Democrats, and so Nunes must stand firm for as long as necessary.

But Nunes is equally adamant that it is a losing strategy for his party, in which shutdown supporters have no end game or alternative solution.

"This is bad for those of us trying to work on reforms," he said.

— John Ellis

Orth to test new, faster finance reporting

Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas' proposal to revamp the political rules for he and his board colleagues landed like a thud. Borgeas couldn't even get his fellow supervisors to discuss the proposal.

Borgeas' high-profile suggestions included three-term limits on supervisors and capping campaign contributions that currently are unlimited. With the proposal's quick death last month, it has zero chance of going anywhere — at least for the foreseeable future.

But Borgeas' proposal had a third component — asking county Clerk Brandi Orth to implement a policy in her office to put all late contribution reports online no later than three days after they are received.

Currently, there is no time requirement to put the documents online, though they eventually are posted by Fresno County officials on a voluntary basis.

But next year, Orth says, her office is going to try posting the reports online within three days.

But, Orth said, it's worth taking on as a pilot project because "I like to provide as much information to the public as I can."

A new law also is kicking in that will change the rules.

As it is now, county candidates who spend or receive $1,000 or more in the final 16 days leading up to an election must make a report to the county within a day of the transactions. The change in state law will push that window from 16 days before an election to three months before.

— John Ellis

Varney makes 4 in Madera sheriff's race

Chowchilla police Chief Jay Varney announced plans Wednesday to run for Madera County sheriff in November 2014.

Varney, who has 30 years of experience in law enforcement, is seeking the post currently held by John Anderson, who plans to retire next year.

He joins Madera County Undersheriff Michael Salvador, retired California Highway Patrol Sgt. Dennis Fairbanks and Fresno police Sgt. Greg Noll in the campaign to replace Anderson.

— Marc Benjamin


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