Still pursuing a lawsuit against one of California's top Democrats, an East Bay Republican leader seeks to advance his "rising star" reputation by becoming the state GOP's second-in-command.

Looking at his extensive, slick Web site, thomasdelbeccaro.com, one might think Contra Costa County Republican Central Committee chairman Tom Del Beccaro seeks a publicly elected office. Instead, Del Beccaro — who sued to kick Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown off the November ballot for attorney general — is rallying support from hundreds of delegates to the party's convention this February in Sacramento.

Del Beccaro, 44, who lives in Lafayette and practices law in Walnut Creek, says he hopes to succeed vice chairman Ron Nehring of San Diego; Nehring in turn hopes to succeed party chair Duf Sundheim of Palo Alto. Party bylaws say the chair and vice chair must rotate between Northern and Southern California; sitting as vice chair is a leg up — though not a guarantee — for the top spot.

Another possible vice chair contender is San Luis Obispo County Assessor Tom Bordonaro Jr., an Assemblyman from 1994 to 1998 who lost to Democrat Lois Capps. Now treasurer of his county's Republican committee, Bordonaro told delegates to August's state GOP convention he might seek the vice chair's post. He didn't return a call seeking comment for this story.

Jon Fleischman, publisher of the conservative state news and blog site FlashReport.org, called Del Beccaro "a front-runner for the office," although it's too early to predict a win.


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"Both Toms are good friends of mine, I haven't endorsed either. ... But clearly the momentum is behind Tom Del Beccaro because he's been running for this office for almost two years, gathering hundreds of endorsements and traveling."

Long active in politics, Del Beccaro stepped it up in recent years: running unsuccessfully for Lafayette City Council in 1999; working on failed House candidate Claude Hutchison's campaign in 2000; chairing failed gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon's Contra Costa County campaign in 2002; winning his county's GOP chair in 2003; and chairing failed U.S. Senate candidate Bill Jones' Bay Area campaign in 2004.

Unlike Bordonaro, he hasn't held elected public office. But he does chair the state party's County Chairmen's Association — "chair of the chairs," some call the job, a post ready-made for networking. He keeps a busy schedule of speaking engagements at Republican clubs around the state, and has a reputation as a dynamic orator.

And as publisher and prime pundit of PoliticalVanguard.com, Del Beccaro has built an information pipeline from his keyboard to Republicans across California. "If you're anywhere in Republican politics and Tom runs across you, you find PoliticalVanguard in your inbox," Fleischman said.

Del Beccaro and Bordonaro are both staunch conservatives — Fleischman called them "indistinguishable in terms of ideology"— so moderates might shy from choosing either man. Yet Fleischman said some moderates appreciate Del Beccaro's "accessibility," his willingness to consider and debate other opinions without rubbing anyone the wrong way: "Tom understands party office is as much pothole politics as where you stand on the issues."

California Republican Assembly President Mike Spence said the grassroots, conservative CRA always backed Bordonaro for public office but also backed Del Beccaro's bid to lead the County Chairmen's Association. It will make its 2007 endorsement decisions Jan. 6.

Del Beccaro and other party activists in October sued to get Jerry Brown booted from November's attorney general's race. State law requires the attorney general be "admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state" for at least five years before taking office; the suit notes Brown was an "inactive member" of the State Bar of California from 1997 to 2003. A Sacramento judge refused to interfere with the election, and Brown beat Republican Chuck Poochigian by 18 percentage points.

"We're going to be filing an amended complaint to deal with an election challenge, that is going to go forward," Del Beccaro said Thursday, anticipating a hearing in late December or early January.

Contact Josh Richman at jrichman@angnewspapers.com.