Assemblyman Curt Hagman has a clear path to serve as the next leader of the San Bernardino County Republican Party following Robert Rego's announcement that he will not serve another term as the local party's leader.

Rego has served as chairman since 2009, taking on the county GOP's leadership post at a time when the party was reeling from corruption investigations into San Bernardino County officials who had also held leadership positions within the party organization.

San Bernardino County Republicans, like their counterparts up and down California, are now dealing with problems of a different nature after the Democratic Party's triumphs in the 2012 elections.

Hagman, Rego's heir apparent, and other California Republican leaders must figure out how to unite a party divided among its mainstream, Tea Party and libertarian leading factions while also attracting new members and candidates - particularly among minority groups - in order to regain competitiveness.

Hagman, serving his third term in the Assembly, said he has not been closely involved with the San Bernardino County GOP's activities during his time in the Legislature but said he wants the local party to be a much more active force in Inland Empire politics.

"We need to have more events. We need to have more fundraisers. We need to have more voter registration drives," Hagman said.

Rego announced in an email delivered about 11 p.


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m. Thursday that he had decided to step down from the chairman's post to aid former Inland Empire legislator Jim Brulte's efforts to become the next chairman of the California Republican Party.

The announcement reversed statements Rego made earlier this month when he said he would compete with Hagman to lead the San Bernardino County GOP.

On Friday, Rego said he changed his mind after deciding to accept an as-yet undisclosed opportunity with the state-level Republican Party.

"I could not do justice serving as chairman and seeking the opportunity with the state," Rego said.

Rego's announcement also expressed his respect for Hagman's access to donors.

It's no secret the San Bernardino County Republican Party's fundraising prowess has diminished since the rise and fall of former chairman Bill Postmus.

Postmus chaired the party from January 2004 through June 2007. Postmus led the party during his tenure as a San Bernardino County supervisor and as the county's assessor, a position he won in 2006.

Postmus left the chairman's role in 2007. The following year, his assistant Adam Aleman, was arrested on suspicion on destroying evidence during a Grand Jury investigation. Before working for Postmus in the Assessor's Office, Aleman worked as the county GOP's executive director.

Postmus resigned from the Assessor's Office in February 2009.

Aleman pleaded "no contest" to four felonies as part of a plea deal in June 2009.

Postmus pleaded guilty in March 2011 to multiple felonies related to a $102 million settlement the county made with Colonies Partners, LLC, a development company in Rancho Cucamonga.

Postmus and Aleman agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of their deals.

Postmus testified that while he was a county supervisor, he received a bribe from Colonies co-managing partner Jeff Burum. Burum has repeatedly maintained his innocence and court proceedings are ongoing.

The San Bernardino County Republican Party's fortunes mirrored those of Postmus. I

In 2004, Postmus' first year as chairman, the local party raised more than $350,000.

Rego assumed the local GOP's leadership post in August 2009. In 2010, his first full year as chairman, the county party raised just over $33,000.

The San Bernardino County Republican Party raised roughly $69,000 from the beginning of 2012 through Dec. 22. The local party's ending cash balance was about $1,300 in the hole.

"Donors are not there anymore. The coffers are thin. There have to be some changes," said James Tate, a San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee member.

Rego said he is largely pleased with his accomplishments as party chairman. When he took on the job, the San Bernardino County Republican Party did not even have an office.

"The party was like a car in a junkyard, and we started fixing it up," Rego said.

Money problems are only one challenge for Hagman and other San Bernardino County Republicans.

Tate also said the local party is riven by disagreements between Tea Party factions, libertarian factions influenced by former Texas Rep. Ron Paul and "right-wing conservatives," including himself among the last group.

He also said he has been disappointed by procedures that prevented the local party from supporting incumbent Republicans including state Sen. Bill Emmerson, Yucaipa councilman Dick Riddell and Ontario Councilwoman Debra Dorst-Porada during their re-election campaigns last year.

The county party is working on new bylaws that will ease the endorsement process for incumbents, said Roman Nava, who chairs the committee in charge of endorsements.

San Bernardino County Republicans are scheduled to formally select their next chairman at a meeting Thursday.


Reach Andrew via email, call him at 909-386-3872, or find him on Twitter @InlandBizz.