California GOP plots bounce back from devastating recall defeat

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – California Republicans are eager to end their unsuccessful efforts to topple Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a recall election and focus on U.S. House races next year which could determine which party controls Congress and whether House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy steps up to the speaker’s chair.

A three-day convention of party delegates that begins Friday will include its share of soul-searching and pointing fingers at the recall loss last week. The party faces the harsh reality that Republicans have not won a statewide race in California since 2006 and that its ranks continue to wither in the heavily Democratic state.

But the focus is on the future and the possibility that Republican House victories could help McCarthy, of Bakersfield, impeach House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco.

Democrats hold 220 seats in the House, Republicans 212, with three seats to be filled. The California congressional delegation is much more lopsided: 42-11 in favor of the Democrats – but that’s an improvement for the GOP.

In 2020, Republicans reclaimed four seats in the California House and leaders are preparing to defend them and even expand that list in the upcoming midterm elections, when the party that holds the White House typically loses seats.

While the GOP remains predominantly white, the party won those California seats last year with diverse candidates – two South Korean immigrant women and two male sons of immigrant parents from Mexico and Portugal – and tapping into discontent of voters facing high taxes, increasing crime rates and homelessness.

California loses a House seat due to a once-per-decade reallocation, when districts are redrawn to reflect population changes. This will reduce California’s representation to 52 House seats, still the largest of any state.

It’s hard to make predictions on specific districts until new boundaries are announced later this year, which could make some districts more Democratic, others more Republican.

But the fight is already underway. The American Action Network, a conservative group linked to the leadership of House GOP, aired television commercials in Democratic Representative Josh Harder’s district in the Central Valley. They blame the Liberals in Congress for uncontrollable spending and taxes and seek to tie Harder to Pelosi’s “socialist agenda.”

Inevitably, the failure of the recall will trigger a new round of soul-searching into how the party can become more competitive. Newsom pushed back the attempt to pull it off with an overwhelming margin.

It has become routine – California Republicans lose big statewide races, debate change, then lose again. In the last two races for the U.S. Senate, a Republican hasn’t even been able to finish among the top two voters in the primary, meaning the candidates who faced each other in the general election were both Democrats.

With memory loss, “What have we learned? What can we change? Asked Matt Shupe, who leads the Contra Costa County Republican Party and advised GOP gubernatorial candidate Kevin Faulconer on the recall. “Six months ago I thought the encore was ours to lose. Then we lost it.

Shupe said unsubstantiated allegations of rigged elections broadcast by former President Donald Trump and some other Republicans may have lowered turnout. Another disappointment in his home county was the lack of enthusiasm of the volunteers – those field infantry who knock on doors and make phone calls to increase participation. While 400 people signed up to help, only 30 participated, he said.

A generation ago, California was a reliable victory for the GOP in the presidential election. The Republican-rich suburbs of Orange County, south of Los Angeles, were a mainstay of the modern conservative movement that led to the rise of the Reagan Revolution.

Over time, a changing economy and growing diversity reshaped state politics, giving California its prominent democratic slant.

Election losses have led to friction over whether the party should adjust its political compass. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a centrist of the GOP elected in a recall election in 2003, once recommended distilling the state party platform into one page by focusing on lower taxes, limited government and strong national defense, while avoiding national schisms over gay rights, gun control and abortion.

It didn’t happen.

The latest round of self-examinations comes as the national GOP continues to seek a way forward after Trump’s tumultuous presidency.

The State party has long been troubled by rivalries between moderate and conservative factions. The recall turnout fell well below expectations – Trump got 6 million votes in his California loss to Joe Biden in 2020, but only around 4.5 million voted to recall Newsom.

And even in the midst of a heated campaign, the state’s GOP continued to lose voters – a drop of nearly 50,000 between February and August, leaving the party with around 24% of registered voters statewide. . Democrats represent almost 47%.

Among possible candidates for replacement in the recall, centrist Faulconer was defeated by Larry Elder, a conservative radio talk show host who backed Trump. Elder got nearly 50% of the vote among 46 candidates, but the contest was rendered moot when voters opted to keep Newsom.

Longtime Conservative activist and blogger Steve Frank, who unsuccessfully sought the party’s top post in 2019, said frustration within the GOP ranks could lead some activists to start operating outside the GOP. aegis of the State Party.

“They did not see the State Party being a factor in the recall,” Frank said. Without a meaningful voter registration effort “you expect to lose”.

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