The convention in San Francisco's Burlingame suburb began after
months of strategizing and fund-raising led by former Republican
state senate leader Jim Brulte. In a state where Democrats control
both legislative houses and every statewide elected office, Brulte
is charged with helping to revive the party's moribund operation.
"The party was a million dollars in debt, we had no real decent
donor list ... we had closed down our Sacramento office ... and the
Burbank office was in disrepair," said spokesman Mark Standriff, a
former employee of the state Republican party who was re-hired to
help rebuild. "We want to get the party back to what it should have
been over the past few years."
About 1,000 delegates and guests were expected to attend the weekend
convention, where former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
and national Republican chairman Reince Priebus will speak. Also
expected are appearances by businessman Neel Kashkari and California
Assembly member Tim Donnelly, who are vying to replace Democratic
Governor Jerry Brown this year.
Last year, Priebus and the Republican National Committee released a
blueprint for a $10 million nationwide campaign aimed at women,
ethnic minorities, young and gay voters, who solidly chose
Democratic President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney in
In California, the party of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon has
declined as the state's demographics changed and many voters were
alienated by the party's sharp move to the right, which was led by
religious conservatives and Tea Party activists.
Many Latino voters, alienated by anti-immigration measures supported
by former Governor Pete Wilson in 1994, have yet to be won over.
Last month, the state released a report that showed 29 percent of
voters were registered Republicans in 2013, down from about 35
percent in 2005. Democrats, by contrast, increased their registrants
in the same period by just under one percent.
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"Clearly, recent elections and voter registration trends represent
real challenges for the Republican Party this year," said Mark
Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California.
SAN DIEGO TURNS, DEBT FALLS
Republicans recently won back the mayor's office in San Diego, a
onetime conservative stronghold, after Democratic mayor Bob Filner
resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment.
Much of the debt that had burdened the state party has been paid as
a result of fundraising by Brulte, the staff has been replenished
and the Sacramento office has reopened.
The recent election of State Senator Andy Vidak to a seat in the
agricultural San Joaquin Valley, which had previously voted
Democratic, has also bolstered the party.
Vidak is frequently mentioned by Republican leaders as an example of
a candidate able to win over women and minorities. His spokeswoman,
Jann Taber, said obligations in his home district near Fresno would
keep him from the convention.
On a broader scale, Standriff said the state party wants to keep
chipping away at the state legislature while helping Republicans
retain control of Congress.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Cynthia Johnston, Toni
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