08/28/2012 09:48 pm ET Updated May 24, 2013

San Francisco Republicans: The Young GOP Experience In America's Liberal Heartland (PHOTOS)


SAN FRANCISCO -- Catherine Carr was born and raised in San Francisco. A graduate of St. Ignatius High School and the University of California Berkeley, she's now finishing a nursing degree at U.C. San Francisco and spends her free time volunteering for her political party.

At a street fair in 2008, several cyclists grabbed hold of her volunteer table as they rode by, dragging it halfway down the block. "Papers were flying everywhere," Carr, 30, told The Huffington Post.

Her friend Thomas Moyer, also 30, was spit on at a different street fair after he asked someone if they would like to register to vote.

Carr and Moyer are Republicans. And they are in the belly of the beast.

"When it comes to liberalism, San Francisco is ground zero," said Moyer, who is the vice president of the San Francisco Young Republicans. "But I have to stay optimistic."

Like Moyer, many young San Francisco Republicans believe California is headed for financial meltdown and are frustrated with what they believe is a serious mismanagement of the budget. "How many more California bankruptcies do we need to see that?" he asked.

Though generally good-humored about his party's outnumbered lot in the Bay Area, Moyer considers one statement to be a disheartening truth. "San Francisco considers itself a very open-minded and accepting city," he said. "But that does not apply if you are Republican."


The "conservative double standard" has long been a gripe for those on the redder side of the spectrum.

"Just try dating," grumbled SFYR President Matthew Del Carlo. Del Carlo, 35, is a third generation San Franciscan whose family has lived in the Excelsior District for 75 years. "I can't tell you how many times I've been out at dinner and seen that look come over a girl's face as she asks, 'oh, you're a Republican?'"

For those who feel they have been metaphorically spit on by GOP policies, stories such as Moyer, Carr and Del Carlo's may not sound especially compelling.

"If the Republicans are having difficulty spreading their ideas in San Francisco, perhaps they should reconsider their positions on key issues such as equality," Mary Jung, San Francisco Democratic Party chair, told The Huffington Post.

Nevertheless, Del Carlo considers the negative attitude towards conservatives to be the source of a serious problem in San Francisco, one that goes beyond his own social experiences.

"We have had a one-party system in San Francisco for 50 years," he said. "And that is a dangerous situation for any government."

Indeed, two political speeds exist for most San Franciscans: liberal and super liberal. During a sold-out Obama campaign fundraiser back in February, the crowd exploded as the president proclaimed, "San Francisco, I love you back." The two protesting rabble-rousers escorted out of the event both criticized the president for not being liberal enough.

Del Carlo is a campaign strategist by profession, a career choice that surely requires tenacity as a Republican in San Francisco. "After a loss, one candidate asked me, 'Why did I even throw my hat in the race?' I said, 'Because I wanted to have an honest discussion with San Franciscans about what options are out there.'"

Jason Clark, an openly gay Republican currently challenging Tom Ammiano for state Assembly, agrees that it's not so much the liberal climate that is dangerous, but the discouragement of other voices.

"When you stamp out the dialogue, you stamp out democracy," Clark told HuffPost. "And there is little dialogue in San Francisco."


Though he now owns his own business, Del Carlo vividly remembers learning to keep quiet about his right leanings during job searches.

"I remember in college I foolishly listed my volunteer work with the Republican National Convention on my resume," he said. "I quickly learned that if there is any hint of conservative affiliation on a resume, that's the fastest route to the out pile."

Moyer agreed. "If you're in San Francisco and you have 'Republican' on your resume, that's a career limiting move," he said.

Carr, the group's membership director, said she has witnessed this firsthand.

"After my sister went to law school at [U.C.] Hastings, she was interviewing with a local firm," she recalled. Carr said her sister received a letter from the firm thanking her for her application, but stating that her "noted involvement with the Nob Hill Republican Women's Club was in direct opposition to the values and culture of the firm." She was turned down for the job.

"I couldn't believe they would put that in writing," she said.

Another Republican asked that his name not be included in this article for fear that he would be passed over for an upcoming promotion.

"Republicans generally stay hidden in San Francisco," Moyer said. "But they're out there."


Like Democrats, San Francisco Republicans run the gamut. At a recent SFYR happy hour at Cigar Bar and Grill, there were moderates, the religious right, atheists, Libertarians and members of the Log Cabin Club, the party's LGBT contingent. One partygoer told the HuffPost why she didn't support same-sex marriage (her reasons were religious), while another handed out lawn signs for Clark's assembly campaign, which includes marriage equality in its platform.

"The party is by no means homogenous," Del Carlo said. Such became clear when the cocktail party began to discuss this week's Republican National Convention.

In general, the group was lukewarm on Mitt Romney, but they expressed excitement about his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) -- a detail liberal San Franciscans may find especially terrifying.

"There's a lot of shrill nonsense from both sides right now," Clark said.

One place local Republicans do come together, however, is in their shared concern for California's economic health.

"California is well-intentioned, but we've just been throwing money at problems that require fundamental reform," Moyer said. "We spend over half of the General Fund budget on education, yet California schools rank among the lowest in the country. As a soon-to-be father, this deeply concerns me."

Del Carlo noted that San Francisco invests much of its budget on homelessness, but that the homeless population remains stagnant. "We have so many programs, but there are no audits -- there is no transparency," he said.

Moyer's biggest problem lies with the city's current taxation system. He pointed to examples such as the city's controversial "Twitter tax break" as evidence. "There shouldn't need to be a 'tax break.' That sets a bad precedent," he said. "We should just have a tax system that makes it possible for businesses to survive."

"San Francisco has one if the highest tax burdens in the country," he added.

Del Carlo also said he finds the recent exodus of families from San Francisco particularly alarming.

"We are doing nothing to keep families here and we are losing them in droves," he said. "I hate to pull the native card -- but I can't stand it when people come here, use San Francisco as their liberal petri dish, and then move to the suburbs when they want to raise a family."

Del Carlo said the most infamous offenders of this are former mayor of San Francisco and current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and former San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly.

"Gavin Newsom? That guy's a bum," he said. "Here he is mayor, shaping the direction of the city. Then when he needs to raise a family, he moves to Marin. You're an elected official and you don't even want to keep your own kids here? Shame on you."

Leaving is not an option, on the other hand, for many young members of the San Francisco GOP.

"I may not agree with some of the people who live here, but San Francisco is a jewel," Del Carlo said. "My family has been here for generations because it really is the greatest city in the world, and I'm not giving up on it. It just deserves better."

San Francisco Young Republicans