Who Are the Bay Area’s Trump Fans?

A retired medical laboratory CEO in Rossmoor, a San Francisco real estate developer with a plane, and a San Leandro father and electrician are behind The Donald.


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Dave Erlich supports The Donald.

Photo by Chris Duffey

There are Republicans in the Bay Area. Sure, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 3 to 1 in the greater Bay Area, according to the California Secretary of State; and, in Alameda County, the ratio is closer to 4 to 1.

And some of these Republicans like their man Donald Trump, thank you, including many who have stood by him from the start, long before his unstoppable rise in the delegate race.

They welcome his antiestablishment stance, his unrehearsed language, his disdain for political correctness, his independence from lobbyists, and his conservative views. To them, Trump will protect American jobs, improve the economy, and build national defense. And he has the skill set for productive interparty negotiations. His politics work for them; his style is a clincher.

“Politicians always give you the answer, but it’s always canned and fake and disingenuous. People are tired of these silly answers that never go anywhere and never mean anything,” said Scott Robertson, a San Francisco Trump delegate for congressional District 12. He is a fellow real estate developer who divides his time between California and Arizona, piloting himself in his turboprop, Trump hat atop his head. Supporters acknowledge that Trump’s brash style can be offensive and he may go too far. But they accept that this as a winning tactic, with a nod to his best-selling 30-year-old book, The Art of the Deal.

And they see the New York magnate as a fiscal, not social, conservative at his core—which is OK by them.

“I think he will pull more to the middle,” said Fran Cavenaugh, president of the Rossmoor Republican Club and vice chairwoman of the Contra Costa County Republican Party.

“I make no bones; I’m a big Trump fan. I’ve been since the beginning,” said the Walnut Creek grandmother, explaining that this is her view, and her political clubs don’t make presidential endorsements.

She retired to Rossmoor—where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a healthy margin—with her husband from Baltimore seven years ago to be close to her Bay Area children, a lawyer and a psychologist, and three grandchildren. She was the CEO of a medical laboratory, and her husband was an account executive with Merrill Lynch. “And a West Point graduate,” she adds with pride. “He was in the Army for many years.”

A Southern Baptist, Cavenaugh said the left-thinking West Coast has taken some adjustment, but, she adds, “I’m less conservative socially; I think that should be kept out of politics.”

Trump support in the East Bay started as a whisper, but broke into the open on the wave of his national popularity, she said.

“I don’t think he can be corrupted by the lobbyists or big money, because he is big money,” Cavenaugh said. “At least he will reach across the aisle and try to get people together. This is what Reagan did, and I think this is what he’ll do, and if I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t be for him.”

While party affiliation divides Blackhawk, it rarely divides neighbors, she says. A dedicated Republican activist from long before moving to California, Cavenaugh said her personal philosophy is to avoid talking politics if it could turn nasty. “Because I don’t think it will accomplish anything.”

As for Trump’s headline-grabbing rhetoric, well, he’s campaigning, she said: “A lot of the things he’s saying are to get people out. Once he secures the nomination, we’re going to see a different Trump. I’m OK with that.”

Skills in management, negotiation, deal-making, money-making—these are what’s needed in the executive branch, Robertson said, adding, “Trump has these in spades.”

Robertson, 61, a born and bred San Franciscan, grew up in a mixed-politics family; his father, an insurance broker, was a JFK Democrat. His mom, who was his dad’s secretary, was a Goldwater Republican. Her views had more sticking power on their son. Robertson’s one daughter happens to be in real estate in Manhattan, and she’s not a Trump supporter. “I tell her not to take it personally,” Robertson said with a laugh.

“I know he doesn’t suit everyone’s taste, but if you want a winner who knows how to adapt, who knows how to address a problem not as a liberal and not as a conservative but to win it, as a pragmatist … this is Trump,” he said.

Dave Erlich, an unabashed Trumpster and chairman of the Alameda County Republican Party, credits his guy with a surge in Republican voter registration.

“I’ve seen a groundswell of Republican registration; the most I’ve ever seen,” said Erlich. “I was a Trump supporter before others started coming out of the closet.”

As with Cavenaugh, Erlich spoke as a private citizen; the Alameda County Republican Party doesn’t endorse in presidential elections

A San Leandro electrician, father, and unsuccessful state Assembly candidate, Erlich adds, “The last time I saw this was when Rand Paul was running, but he didn’t draw the same percentages as Trump.”

“His rhetoric is rough at times, and so is mine,” Erlich said. “It catches people’s attention. Thank God he doesn’t watch everything he says, and thank God he doesn’t pander to every group.

“How eloquent can you be when you try to wake people up? He’s waking people up,” Erlich said. “He puts himself in some bad positions, but every time he sounds whacked off and against the wall, he walks himself back to a point of sanity.”

Erlich grew up in suburban Los Angles in a middle-class family whose politics consisted of “my parents yelling at Jimmy Carter on the TV.” He visited the Bay Area as a traveling salesman, repping a multipurpose cleaner and eventually making a permanent move.

Libertarian in his views—which led him to find a better home as a Republican than Democrat—he’s not big on partisan politics, which underlies his zeal for Trump and his throw-down to the party establishment. Like many Trump supporters in the Bay Area, Erlich talks of a unique bond he feels in this election with the far left and Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

“They both represent something that’s not establishment, not elitist. It’s a movement on the right and a movement on the left, circling the middle,” he said.

“Everybody sort of feels that we just need a total change, on both sides,” Cavenaugh agreed.

Republican fundraiser Kristen Hueter, who lives in Oakland’s Crocker Highlands, didn’t start as a Trump supporter; she worked for Jeb Bush. But she’s fully on board now. “I’m for whomever can beat Hillary Clinton, and if that’s Trump, I’m all in.”

Raising money for Republicans in the Bay Area is much easier than raising votes, she said, adding, “I know I’m a tremendous minority, and that’s fine. If I didn’t get along with Democrats living in the Bay Area, I wouldn’t be a very happy soul.”

Following the trend, Hueter moved to Oakland from San Francisco a few years ago, loving the East Bay city’s neighborhood vibrancy, culture, and walkability.

She wasn’t at all offended by Trump’s comment that Oakland is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Hey, if it brings crime-fighting resources, it’s a good thing, she said. “Maybe we can get some help. If Hillary said it, it wouldn’t offend me either.”

She also moved east to be closer to her ashram, Siddha Yoga in Emeryville, and its spiritual leader. Republicans are rare in her spiritual community, she admits, but this is irrelevant to the greater message of civil participation.

“The guru tells us to be sure to vote,” Hueter said. “She hates when people don’t live responsible lives in every regard. Live the dharmic life and do the right things, including taking the opportunity to vote.”

2016-07-14 01:16 AM

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