By Miriam Raftery
August 17, 2017 (La Mesa, California)—La Mesa Councilmember and Vice Mayor Kristine C. Alessio has quit the Republican Party over the party’s failure to take a stand against racism.
“I’m out of the Republican Party,” Alessio announced on her Facebook page yesterday. “I’ll never be pro choice, never be against the second amendment, but I cannot stand with anyone who will not say no to racism and prejudice. Count me as decline to state and in favor of liberty.”
Her action comes on the heels of President Donald Trump claiming there are “good people” on “both sides” in the Charlottesville, Virginia tragedy, where a white supremacist rally included leaders carrying Nazi flags, torches and Ku Klux Klan symbols. A Nazi sympathizer at the rally rammed a car into a crowd of protesters, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others.
Trump took two days before denouncing Nazis and the clan by name, but one day later, backtracked on those statements and doubled down on his insistance that "both sides" were equally at fault. While some prominent officials in both parties have spoken out against Trump's remarks, as have the leaders of all four military branches, there has been no official censure or other action from the Republican led-Congress or the Republican National Committee (RNC).
Alessio further stated in her Facebook comments that anyone with “true conservative beliefs should be willing to call him out…yet most just sit there, ignoring him, hoping some policy of his will somehow fit with their beliefs. He’s abased Republican leaders with insults and threats, insulted them, insulted their wives,” adding, “this is not in any way, shape or form a person who should be protected by the Republican party.”
In her resignation letter as an alternate to the Republican Central Committee, she cited events in recent days and the party’s “inability or unwillingness to squarely denounce President Trump for his divisive comments which have been widely condemned by every true conservative mind, from Bill Kristol to Charles Krauthammer. It is impossible to see our party as the party of Lincoln or Reagan, a truly conservative party. I cannot with clear conscious continue to be a registered Republican.” She added that she will “not be associated with a party that has descended to defending tribalism, divisiveness and profound indecency.”
In an interview on San Diego Rostra, a libertarian and conservative leaning site, Alessio indicated she is considering running for Supervisor, but only if retiring Supervisor Dianne Jacob gives her endorsement for the race in 2020. Alessio added that she might return to the Republican party if it “ever returns to sanity.” There is precedent for that; Randy Voepel left the Republican Party while serving as Mayor of Santee to join a more conservative minor party, but later rejoined the GOP and was successfully elected to the state Assembly, where he currently serves.
Alessio, who has self funded her campaigns in the past, says she will continue to support qualified candidates including both Republicans and Democrats. She recently drew fire from party leaders for crossing the aisle to endorse Jay Steiger, a Democrat, to fill a vacancy on the La Mesa Spring Valley School District Board. (The board chose a church employee instead, despite Steiger’s many years of service in the district including on bond oversight commissions and as a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president.)
La Mesa Councilman Colin Parent, a Democrat, posted on Facebook, “Proud of my council colleague Kristine C. Alessio for leaving the GOP to protest Trump’s failure to `say no to racism and prejudice.’ She is not alone. I’ve heard the same sentiment from many old friends in East County, and La Mesa. She is representing well the views of the La Mesa and the region by denouncing hate.”
But in a blistering post on San Diego Rostra, Brian Brady slammed Alessio’s action as “Kabuki theater” to position herself for a possible Supervisorial run. “This isn’t `courage,’ it’s a political stunt,” he wrote.
La Mesa politicians have a long history of independence that hasn’t hurt them in this city, though it’s unclear what impact their actions might have had on any higher office aspirations.
La Mesa Councilman David Allan left the Republican Party to join the Democratic Party in 2008 and won reelection later that year. He made the shift when George W. Bush was president and explained his shift this way: “I represent everybody. I don’t agree with everything on either side. But we forgot about the working person,” said Allan, a former union firefighter. “I’m going to do what’s right.”
Long-serving former La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid, who held office in La Mesa for a quarter of a century, was known to cross the political aisle. A Republican, Madrid most notably ired GOP party officials and defied party rules when he endorsed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat, in the 2008 presidential primary. He won reelection that same year and again in 2012.
Current La Mesa Councilman Bill Baber, also a Republican, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2016 during the GOP primary season, “I do not believe Donald Trump is fit to be president. He does not have the experience or character to handle the office.” Baber confirmed to East County Magazine today that he still holds this opinion. "Kristine Alessio is of a higher character, and more qualified, than our current President."