Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Polo, politics, and pinatas

The Sonoma County Republican Party held its fifth annual Celebrate America Fiesta August 15, at the Trione Polo Field in Oakmont. The polo grounds are at the Wild Oak Saddle Club, in the posh Wild Oak community behind Oakmont, adjoining Annadel State Park. The Wine Country Polo Club's online Tournament Schedule Calendar reads, "Club Polo Aug 14 - 15 [Republican Party picnic Sunday during polo]".

Now 84 and retired, Henry Trione himself was for many years (or was thought to be) the richest man in Sonoma County--which is to say, its leading citizen and #1 Republican. He made millions from mortgage banking in the post-WWII building boom; owned the Empire Building on Courthouse Square; sold Geyser Peak Winery for $100 million in 1998; and his sons run the family bank, Luther Burbank Savings.

Trione has clout. Press Democrat columnist Chris Smith wrote 8/19, "If you call UC Berkeley to invite the 200-member Cal marching band to your neighborhood, it'll help if you have a name like Trione. Cal's storied band will march through a bit of Oakmont on Aug. 28, then perform at the Wild Oak polo field largely because grad Henry Trione asked it to."

But the Trione name and Wild Oak polo field may not be enough to bring Latino immigrants to the local Republican Party. The Press Democrat said (8/15, "GOP courts Latino voters with fiesta") the purpose of the event was "to introduce Latino voters to the party platform and attempt to lure them away from their longtime relationship with the Democratic Party."

We might expect the Republicans to fete the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at the Wild Oak Trione Polo Field. But to hold five years of fiestas for rank and file Latinos?

The PD quoted Fiesta Chairman John Flitner as saying more than 250 people attended last year's event, and reported Monday ("Politics a distant second at GOP fiesta") 160 came this year. The PD's subhead was "Goal to acquaint Latinos with Republican values thwarted, but mood festive".

Carol Benfell's tongue-in-cheek story reported, "People sat in small groups, chatting with friends and family and listening to music by Mariachi Jalisco. The barbecue, with its hamburgers and hot dogs, corn chips and guacamole, was cleaned out down to crumbs."

But as a political event, the party was a flop:

"The featured speaker--Mario Rodrigues, vice chairman of the California Republican Party--didn't show up. And two workers from Catholic Charities, who had come to register Democratic and Republican voters, found that only two of the Latinos present were citizens and could vote."

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