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What does the future for California Republicans look like?

Just blocks away from theme parks that promise happiness, a fight was brewing among California Republicans.

The issue? Just what the future of the party should look like.

And now, without a California representative as Speaker of the House of Representatives, that future may just be a bit murkier.

California Republicans were propelled into the spotlight last week as the state played host to the party’s second presidential primary debate and, later in the week, a gathering that included former President Donald Trump, three other GOP presidential hopefuls and massive crowds.

They also drew national headlines as Republicans who gathered at the state convention in Anaheim were tasked with a choice: Keep the party platform as is or strip it of the party’s opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage?

The effort to change the platform, essentially a list of values for the California Republican Party, was wildly unsuccessful.

“We’ve got so much excitement in our party right now. We want to capitalize on that excitement and stay unified as a force going into the 2024 election,” said Fred Whitaker, chair of the Orange County Republican Party and one of the leaders of the effort to keep the party platform as is.



But just days later, another Republican kerfuffle culminated in Washington, D.C., as a small group of conservative lawmakers were able to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield from his speaker role, the first time in history that has been done.

And while it’s still early in the aftermath of that drama — and a new House speaker has not yet been chosen — the ejection of McCarthy may not bode well for California Republicans.

“McCarthy had given California Republicans an excuse to explain why they aren’t competitive statewide,” said Dan Schnur, who teaches political messaging at USC and UC Berkeley.

“They could always say they were focusing on national politics to achieve a House majority. But his departure leaves them with even less cover. Now they are simply a local and regional party here,” he said.

And California Republicans are losing someone with valuable insight into what it takes to get elected in the state, said Matt Shupe, a top Republican strategist in California.

“Republicans around the country quickly and easily discount California because it’s too liberal or too expensive, reasons like that,” Shupe said. “(It’s to) California Republicans’ benefit to have someone who is local and knows (the state) and has a vested interest in it and wants to do things to support it.”

And while the platform fracas most likely won’t impact the average California voter, it did underscore the question Republicans are facing: What is the future of the GOP in the Golden State?

For younger Republicans, it is a focus on social issues, said Will Donahue, president of the College Republicans.

“Our younger generation is more conservative than the older generation partly because of what we experience in our daily lives at universities,” said Donahue, a resident of Los Angeles County.

Abortion, in particular, is top of mind for younger conservatives, he said: “You would be hard-pressed to go into any of our (College Republicans) chapters and find a member that is pro-choice.”

The CAGOP platform — adopted in a 70-31 vote over the weekend by those at the convention in Anaheim — says “it is important to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”

Under a section titled “the right to life,” the CAGOP says it supports “laws that protect unborn children from partial birth, sex selection and taxpayer-funded abortions, and abortions performed as a form of birth control or on minor girls without their parents’ notification and consent.”

The section goes on to state CAGOP’s opposition to legalized assisted suicide or euthanasia and human cloning.

“Those are absolutely values that the younger Republicans are holding onto,” said Donahue, who is 24 years old.

“It’s a platform that unites the party,” said Whitaker, who also predicted that it could draw in more socially conservative groups that haven’t typically voted with Republicans, like Asian or Latino populations.

But Charles Moran, a Los Angeles native and president of the Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBTQ+ conservatives, said the California Republican Party is choosing “the past over the future.”

Sticking to the older party platform comes “at the expense of addressing homelessness, rampant fentanyl abuse, a strong commitment to parental rights and Soros-funded weak district attorneys who won’t prosecute crime,” said Moran, referring to the billionaire George Soros who has backed Democrats and liberal causes.

“This will hamstring California’s Republican Party as voters wonder what decade the party is focused on,” he said.

It’s time for the party to change, said Tom Hojjat Tamar, a Republican from San Diego who attended the convention.

“Let’s face it: We’ve been losing, and we’re getting our butt kicked,” said Tamar, an immigrant from Iran.

“The rhetoric is too much so you’re alienating a lot of people, and they don’t want to affiliate with us, and they end up going to the Democrats’ side and voting with them because we’re too aggressive,” he said. “We need to ‘pink up’ a little bit. We’re too red.”

Even without a consensus on the party’s platform, Republicans who attended the convention say they are optimistic about the state of California Republicans — particularly if the party focuses on issues like the economy and education.

“As time passes, and (California residents) feel less and less secure in their environments at work or in their homes or even their churches, they feel like their businesses can’t run or they can’t get jobs or their kids can’t afford to live in this state, that is going to push people toward the more conservative viewpoint,” said Christine La Marca of San Diego.

“And I think they’re going to be looking for alternatives to what the current leadership provides,” she said.

Source: Orange County Register

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