There aren’t many Republicans left in California, but there are still enough to hold an annual state convention that convenes Friday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Burlingame. (I know, they claim the hotel is at the airport, but it’s really in Burlingame.)
Delegates will hear from the three remaining candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, mainly because none of them will have the nomination locked up when California holds its primary June 7. The delegates will also busy themselves passing a slate of resolutions that show once again they’re out of step with the rest of the state.
I find it interesting the Republicans hold their state convention in my old stomping ground because San Mateo County is about as blue as you’re going to get in California. How the county got that way may be a cautionary tale for Nevada County boosters who want to bring more high tech to the area.
The county was a sleepy suburb of San Francisco that was reliably Republican when I was growing up there in the ’50s. Companies like Lenkurt Electric and Ampex Corp. established a modest high tech beach head, but San Francisco Airport and the Bethlehem Steel plant in South San Francisco were the biggest employers in the county. Most white collar workers commuted to San Francisco.
That started to change in the 1960s. The county mounted an aggressive economic development program headed by Henry “Bud” Bostwick, the father of actor Barry Bostwick who headed the county’s Economic Development Association for over 30 years. The demographics also started to change, with younger, more liberal people moving in to replace the aging old-timers who were dying off.
Even Democrats started getting elected to office–something unheard of earlier, and haven’t stopped. Probably nobody in the county under the age of 50 can remember the name of the last Republican elected to the state Legislature or Congress.
Ampex grew into a Fortune 500 company and was eventually joined by several others in high tech, biosciences and financial services. The county is the headquarters of Electronic Arts, Facebook, Oracle, Franklin Templeton Investments, Visa, Genentech and Gilead Sciences, among others.
The high-paying jobs they offer attracted a well-educated, liberal and diverse population to the area. The county’s population has grown to almost 750,000 with a per capita income of almost $44,000, second only to Marin County in California. The population is just 53 percent white, and almost 40 percent of the residents are foreign born.
Wherever they come from, they’re reliably Democrat–72 percent vs. 25 percent for Republicans, less than the statewide total of 28 percent Republicans. That’s what can happen when you attract a lot of open-minded high tech types.
HOTEL TRIVIA: The Hyatt Regency is built on the site of the original Hyatt hotel, actually a two-story motel with a meeting room. The Regency opened in 1989 a few weeks before the Loma Prieta earthquake, and then had to shut down for over a year to repair the damage. But things should be okay this weekend.