CA GOP labors to keep top talent

CA GOPWith an underperforming field of gubernatorial candidates and no dominant figures leading the party, California Republicans have found themselves hard up for statewide leadership.

Many high-profile California Republicans have shown a strong inclination to leave the state altogether to pursue their political fortunes in the wake of a major defeat. As the San Francisco Chronicle noted, recent departures have taken their toll on the party’s ability to field prominent candidates across the range of statewide offices, with former Orange County Assemblyman Chuck DeVore relocating to Texas, onetime gubernatorial hopeful Neel Kashkari shifting gears to run the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, and current presidential candidate Carly Fiorina moving her home base to Virginia.

In a painful indication of how limited GOP ambitions can be on the west coast, all three have won praise and a higher profile outside the Golden State than within it. MayKao Hang, the incoming chairwoman of the Minneapolis Fed’s board of directors, underscored the impression that California is often little more than a proving ground for political talent to the right of center, calling Kashkari “an influential leader whose combined experience in the public and private sectors makes him the ideal candidate to head the Minneapolis Fed,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, some who stay behind have left the bounds of party orthodoxy entirely. Perhaps the state GOP’s most famous resident Californian, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has accompanied Gov. Jerry Brown to the United Nations climate talks in Paris, posting an open letter on Facebook that declared, “I don’t give a [expletive] if we agree about climate change.”

The lack of leadership has exacerbated the party’s recent tendency toward disunity. In an effort to soften the language of its stance on unlawful immigration, the state GOP changed its platform to indicate that members “hold diverse views” on “what to do with the millions of people who are currently here illegally” — phraseology that has been criticized as fodder for Democrats without marking out a principled position.

Business trouble

At the same time, the state GOP has been unable to effectively pivot away from social issues that divide it and toward economic issues that have traditionally reaped reliable dividends. Recent trends suggest that big business has come to view Republican candidates as risks not worth taking where electable corporate-friendly Democrats are to be found.

Cathleen Galgiani

Cathleen Galgiani

“At a time when GOP power in Sacramento has been on the wane, many business interests — which have traditionally skewed Republican and wield considerable clout in the party — are throwing their weight behind centrist Democrats,” the Times reported separately, such as state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, whom GOP favorite Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, wants to defeat. “A year from election day, groups such as the California Assn. of Realtors and Chevron have told the candidates and other political players that they’re for Galgiani,” the Times added, “a show of support from entities that routinely spend big to back their choices.” The state GOP has refused to support Olsen, preferring to sit the race out entirely.

Outside energy

In a strange irony, presidential politics has offered California Republicans a glimmer of hope for better organization, inspiration and leadership. While they have often been looked upon by barnstorming candidates as little more than a source of campaign cash, the unusually fluid and uncertain presidential primary season has led some White House hopefuls to pursue the kind of ground game in California that can be the lifeblood of state and local parties.

“If the nominee is not obvious by the June 7 primary, which is unlikely, Republican candidates would need to compete in San Francisco, Berkeley and Democrat-dominated downtown Sacramento, as well as in Reps. Tom McClintock, Doug LaMalfa and Dana Rohrabacher’s red districts,” the Sacramento Bee noted. Ron Nehring, the former nominee for lieutenant governor, has found a fresh mission in-state as Ted Cruz’s California campaign chairman. “We are preparing for California to matter,” he told the Bee.

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