Dems vote to keep Meagher endorsement |

Dems vote to keep Meagher endorsement

Nevada County Treasurer-Tax Collector candidate Dai Meagher retained the endorsement of the county’s Democratic Central Committee by a wide margin.

The 9-4 vote came in a special session late Thursday, a month after the committee first gave its nod. That earlier action stirred vigorous controversy within the party, with some members calling the endorsement an “error” after learning of Meagher’s connection to two conservative groups.

Those differences also led to the cancellation of a celebration earlier this month.

“The vote failed. We’re keeping our endorsement of Dai,” Committee Chair Margaret Joehnck said after the closed-session vote. She would not elaborate.

Meagher is registered as declining to state a party affiliation. He is running against registered Republican Tina Vernon to replace Christina Dabis, who resigned from the elected, nonpartisan position late last year. The election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 2.

About a dozen people attended Thursday’s meeting held at the BriarPatch Community Room in Grass Valley.

Several people counseled the committee against changing the endorsement this close to the election.

But Democrat Pinky Zalkin took Meagher to task for signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is backed by the conservative Americans for Taxpayer Reform. Signers state their opposition to new and increased taxes. (The treasurer-tax collector cannot raise or levy taxes, but only collects taxes.)

The Americans for Taxpayer Reform opposes President Barack Obama’s health care plan and takes up other conservative causes.

“Their goal is to overturn health care reform,” Zalkin said. “This is not what Democrats worked their (butts) off to get Obama elected for.”

Meagher also is backed by the California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners, a group of conservative western Nevada County residents.

Meagher defended signing the tax pledge, which mirrors the tax stance supported by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, he said. Meagher was unaware of the Americans for Taxpayer Reform’s positions on other political issues, he said at the meeting.

Allowing for differences between the Democratic party’s view of an organization and a candidate’s position regarding tax vigilance makes sense, Meagher said.

“Having someone that can be a watchdog for the citizens, and bring to light things citizens need to know about how our tax dollars are being spent, is something the people need,” Meagher said. “The Democratic Central Committee realized that.”

Rescinding the endorsement required a two-thirds majority.

Shifting affiliations

The committee can endorse candidates who list their party affiliation as decline to state if no Democrat is in the race, Joehnck said. Democrats announced their endorsement in September after a majority of members voted for Meagher, she added.

But Meagher and Vernon have shifted their political affiliations.

Meagher was registered as a Republican, switching to Democrat in 2008 and to decline to state earlier this year – because the treasurer-tax collector position is nonpartisan, he said.

Vernon had been a Democrat before registering Republican in 2008.

Yet many members of the Nevada County Democratic Party support Vernon.

In a letter to The Union published earlier this month, committee member Pat Wynne called the Meagher endorsement an “error.”

At least two of the group’s members have supported Vernon in letters to The Union, and she also has the backing of former Democratic Nevada County Supervisor Peter Van Zant.

“I endorsed Tina as soon as she announced. I know her to be very competent,” Van Zant said, but added, “I’m not sure that reconsidering the (Meagher) endorsement at this point would have any material effect on the outcome.”

Controversy within the party over the Meagher endorsement also led to the cancellation of an Oct. 9 dinner in Van Zant’s honor, due to a lack of ticket sales, Joehnck said. Meagher had been invited to speak at the event.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

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