‘There Isn’t desire for Us’: Once Dominant, California Republicans Are on the Ropes
LOS ANGELES — The California Republican Party — a once dominant power within the nation’s largest state, the party of Earl Warren, Richard Nixon along with Ronald Reagan — will be teetering on the brink of irrelevance.
The Democratic sweep of Orange County congressional seats drew national attention on Election Day. nevertheless the Republican losses there were a symptom of the broader collapse of a storied political organization.
Republicans currently hold just seven seats within the state’s 53-member congressional delegation after what shaped up to be a devastating midterm for the party. (which number will drop to six if Representative David Valadao, a Central Valley Republican, loses to T.J. Cox within the one still undecided district, as currently appears likely).
Democrats captured three-quarters of the seats within the State Assembly, the biggest margin in over 100 years. The governor, lieutenant governor, both United States senators, the attorney general along with the secretary of state are all Democrats. As of September, there were fewer registered Republican voters in California than Democrats or independents.
The decline has been decades within the generating, the result of demographic shifts, changing views toward immigration along with, most recently, the rise of President Trump, who lost This particular state by nearly four million votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The Election Day losses are being described by Republicans in cataclysmic terms. They have set off an anguished debate about what the party stands for, how to get back into the political game, along with how strongly to stick by Mr. Trump.
“This particular state deserves a two-party system,” said Travis Allen, a state assemblyman who ran within the primary for governor along with will be a candidate to become party chairman. “along with which’s in jeopardy after 2018.”
Kristin Olsen, the former Republican leader within the Assembly who will be currently a member of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, called the item “a major setback for the Republican Party.”
“So much to ensure which I don’t think the item’s salvageable at This particular time,” she said.
The results are a major political embarrassment for Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader coming from Central California. The Democratic sweep came despite an all-out effort by Mr. McCarthy to save his delegation, channeling money to endangered candidates along with advocating a repeal of the state gas tax intended to bring Republicans to the polls.
nevertheless Mr. McCarthy, who will be a close ally of Mr. Trump, pressured his members to vote for Republican legislation — including a tax bill which hurt many California homeowners, along using a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health program — which Democrats used to help topple incumbents.
To a considerable extent, the setbacks are evidence of the burden Mr. Trump has been for Republicans in a state where the president will be viewed favorably by barely one-third of voters. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor-elect, rolled to an easy victory after pummeling his opponent, John Cox, a Republican, for backing Mr. Trump. (Mr. Cox drew just 38 percent of the vote along with even lost to Mr. Newsom in Orange County). Similar strategies were employed by Democrats in some of the congressional seats they flipped.
nevertheless the roots of the Republican problem go back to before the Trump administration to at least 1994, when Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, championed a ballot initiative which could cut off state services, including health care, to immigrants who were here illegally. The initiative passed, nevertheless was thrown out in court. Since then, the Latino population of California has increased to nearly 40 percent.
The ascendance of Mr. Trump has only complicated the task for Republican candidates as Washington Republicans have embraced a tougher line on immigration, climate change, along with health care. Those issues put the national party in direct conflict with much of the California electorate. which has presented Republican candidates here with the task of having to at once appeal to supporters of Mr. Trump while reaching out to the independent along with Democratic voters needed to get elected in most parts of the state.
“I have been preaching which guys, you can’t just have a message to white voters,” said Jim Brulte, the state Republican Party chairman. “Because the demographics are rapidly changing.”
“The losses within the congressional seats continue a trend which began in 1996,” he said. “In 1994, we had 25 Republican Congress members. A decade later we had 20. A decade later we had 14. along with currently we are going to end up with seven or six.”
Mark Rottmann, 67, a handyman coming from San Juan Capistrano, said he was a lifelong Republican who supported Mr. Trump in 2016, nevertheless voted in November for a Democratic candidate for Congress, Mike Levin, who won the seat held by Representative Darrell Issa. Mr. Rottmann said the Republican positions on immigration, abortion rights along with guns had pushed him to the Democratic line.
“I think we have a got an awful lot of middle-of-the-road people who are offended by some of the things which Trump will be doing,” he said. “along with we had some Democratic candidates who didn’t act like they were far left, nevertheless moderate left.”
Republican registration has been on a steady decline: just one in four of voters — 24.5 percent — in September. By contrast, 44 percent of voters registered as Democrats, while 27 percent registered as blank. The Democrats currently have supermajority status in both houses of the Legislature — in some other words they hold at least two-thirds of the seats — which means the party can enact taxes along with put constitutional amendments on the ballot without the support of any Republicans.
As a result, Republicans in Sacramento next year will have little power to influence legislation, much less pass bills of their own.
There are no completely new faces — or for which matter, old faces — on the horizon, ready to lead the party into a completely new era along with electoral victories. along with while there will be no shortage of wealthy Republicans in This particular state, their political donations have been going, if anywhere, to national causes.
“They see California as a dry hole,” said Dan Schnur, a Republican who worked for Mr. Wilson when he was governor.
Republicans are in agreement which their party will be in crisis. nevertheless there will be less agreement about what to do about the item.
Chad Mayes, a Republican member of the State Assembly along using a leader, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican former governor, of an organization of moderate Republicans, said Election Day vividly illustrated the dangers California Republicans faced if they did not break away coming from national Republicans.
“This particular was predictable — the item was predicted,” Mr. Mayes said. “California Republicans had to change with the changing California — along with they haven’t. The California Republican Party has doubled down on the national rhetoric.
“Until we recognize the fact which our brand will be dead along with the people perceive our brand will be dead — which we need to change the item along with completely fix the item — there isn’t desire for us in California,” he said.
Mr. Cox argued which once attention to Mr. Trump began to fade, voters could focus on the problems which have roiled the state under Democratic governance, including high taxes along using a housing crisis.
“These things ebb along with flow,” he said. “The Democratic Party was considered to be almost dead within the early 1970s. I don’t think the Republican Party in California will be anywhere near dead.
“This particular election was truly a referendum on the president,” he said. “Therefore I’m not sure which This particular has anything in terms of long-term results here. the item was truly easy to get votes by addressing a president which 70 percent of Californians think will be obnoxious along with not a great leader.”
nevertheless Mr. Allen said Republicans could make a mistake in moving to the center or walking away coming from Mr. Trump. He said he did not view the president as a burden for California Republicans.
“No,” he said. “Absolutely not. This particular has been the dominant thinking of the top echelon of the California Republican Party: which California Republicans are somehow different than Republicans within the rest of the country. California has 5 million Republicans along with they are just as red-blooded as Republicans across the country.”
Some Republicans said which a big reason for the party’s loss was which they were outspent by Democrats. “We should start by confronting the reality which the leftist political coalition which governs This particular state will be the mightiest political machine within the country,” said David Hadley, a member of the California Assembly who will be also running for state chairman, “along with we have an enormous amount of work to take the item on.”
nevertheless, he added, “the item’s mathematical fact which the Republican Party needs to significantly expand its coalition in California. I think the item’s a lot less simple than just talking about getting more moderate or more conservative.”
Mr. Brulte said blaming Mr. Trump for the losses was “just drive-by political analysis.”
“The proximate cause of these election losses will be demographic improvements which have been showing up in California for 22 years,” he said. “So you say O.K. — you know, the item’s all Trump. Then how do you explain the fact which we haven’t carried California for president in 40 years?”
Ms. Olsen, who spent six years within the Assembly in Sacramento, said California needed “a viable alternative for Californians, particularly as the Democrats move to the left.” nevertheless after Election Day, Ms. Olsen said she had strong doubts which her party was up to which task.
“the item will be yet to be seen whether the California Republican Party could be rebuilt — or whether the item’s time for a completely new party which captures the interest of middle California,” she said. “This particular wasn’t just a decline in viability, nevertheless a death.”