What Needs to Change for California Republicans to Survive

CA GOPThe shellacking California Republicans received on November 6 can certainly be attributed to a variety of factors unrelated to the party’s messaging or political infrastructure. Obviously, the enormous demographic changes that have occurred in the Golden State over the last several decades played an important part in seeing GOP representation in the Assembly, for example, slashed by one-half since the halcyon days of 1994 when the party briefly seized control of the lower house of the Legislature. As uncontrolled immigration takes its toll and older, conservative white voters flee the state, a party wedded to those voters will ultimately pay the price of inexorable electoral decline. The massive liberalization of voting rules to even include Election Day “ballot harvesting” also played a part as the Democrats’  formidable union-paid GOTV machine can now overcome Republican leads on Election Night through “late” votes that continue to be counted weeks beyond the day and hour when the polls actually close.

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There probably is little that can be done to reverse the demographic transformation of California. Even if a Border Wall is eventually built, the horse has already left the stable and the ironclad Democrat hyper-majority in Sacramento will ensure that its ready supply of Democrat voters-in-waiting across the border will receive their voter registration forms the moment they set foot (legally or illegally) on U.S. soil. And, taxpayer-paid health care, housing and education awaits the party’s new charges as they arrive in the once-Golden State. While Republicans can probably count on as much as 30% of the Latino vote in elections, it is highly questionable how high that number can rise unless the GOP simply abandons its core political principles and moves left to outflank the Democrats in offering more free goodies to the immigrant caravans. Trying to reform the “loosey-goosey” election laws Speaker Paul Ryan referred to is out of the question as Republican numbers in the new Legislature are more appropriate to caucusing in a telephone booth than enacting policy.

So, where does the California Republican Party go now? I have heard various ideas, from blowing up the entire party and starting over to organizing a new political party entirely. These are radical, impractical solutions.

What should happen is to examine the avenues of opportunities that still exist in the state that are somewhat independent of the iron hand of the Democrat Party’s autocratic control as well as addressing the amazingly weak CRP strategy at the grassroots level. In short, a return to Hiram Johnson-style popular democracy and a new focus on city and county political organizing.

With the Legislature and statewide offices out of reach for the foreseeable future, the CRP needs to refocus on initiative, referenda and recall as the way to short-circuit the Democrats in Sacramento and enact positive public policy. This is what Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann did with Proposition 13 in 1978. This route was used repeatedly throughout the 1980s and 1990s to enact tax and spending limits and criminal justice reforms (“Three Strikes,” etc.). And, despite the shrinking pool of reliably red voters, Proposition 6 would have likely passed this year had it not been for Xavier Beccera’s deliberately deceptive ballot language.

The CRP needs to invest resources in a program of initiative qualification and enactment, including legal counsel, signature-gathering campaigns and successful fundraising. A range of popular issues that could be conceivably passed at the ballot box even in a deeply-blue state should be identified and vetted by the campaign attorneys. In addition to circumventing legislative Democrats, such a strategy could stimulate voter enthusiasm and turnout for our candidates, recruit volunteers, and, at a minimum, advance a serious policy agenda that is sorely lacking. Recall of elected officials should also be on the table, as it is a tool that the CRP has often used successfully in recent decades (most recently with state Sen. Josh Newman). Blanket the state with popular initiatives with cross-party appeal and go after legislators who have clearly gone off the deep end.

Even more critical is to return to the grassroots, the cities and counties. Have you ever looked at a political map of California? Is it all blue? Hardly. It is actually mostly red. Most California counties voted for Donald Trump and John Cox. The problem is these are the small, inland, sparsely-populated rural counties. The population-heavy San Francisco, Santa Clara and Los Angeles regions are, of course, overwhelmingly Democrat. The question arises: Why are we not doing a better job harnessing the strengths we do have at the local level to develop candidates and even promote ballot measures at the city and county level?

Actually, Republicans have done a reasonably good job in recent years at capturing local offices, such as school boards, city councils, mayors and county supervisors. In the past, we largely ignored these offices and allowed the opposition to build its “farm team.” The beauty of these local offices is that they are officially non-partisan, permitting Republican candidates to downplay their party affiliation and laser in on important city- and county-specific issues that often lack any firm partisan boundaries (development and growth issues, for example).

While Republicans have had some success at the down-ballot level, they have failed miserably at using those offices and officeholders to build any kind of effective or long-lasting local political infrastructure. The GOP central committees are largely irrelevant in many counties and the constant infighting usually discourages and drives away promising candidates rather than recruiting them. Most committees are too poorly-funded to offer any candidate more than a smile and a pat on the back; they have no permanent political structure of consultants, field organizers, volunteers, donors, phone banks, voter lists, slates, sign locations, or the other important resources candidates need. They have no field or GOTV operations. In many cases, they even lack a permanent campaign office.

The Democrats are fortunate in that their local political operations are drawn from the unions, public employee and others. The unions have established local political structures and networks that are automatically plugged in to Democrat candidates, giving them a huge advantage in many parts of the state. They have the precinct walkers, doorbell ringers, and phone bank volunteers; we don’t.

The solution? The California Republican Party needs to invest in a dramatic ramp-up of its presence at the city and county level:

— Develop county Republican Resource Centers to provide local candidates with the services and campaign infrastructure needed to wage viable campaigns, from volunteer lists to donor lists, campaign software, precinct maps and phone bank centers. These resources would be provided at no cost and can be shared among many candidates.

— Start devolving the political consultant community out of Sacramento where it has presided over the complete collapse of Republican congressional and legislative representation in the state over the last two decades. Contract with local Republican consultants who know their regions and have winning track records there

— Use the business community to counter the power of the labor community. Develop relationships with local businesses and employers to create a political infrastructure rivaling what the unions offer the other side. Reach out to the realtors, farm bureaus, grower-shipper associations and other bodies which have members, donors and facilities. Ever heard of running phone banks from a real estate office or produce sales office instead of a union hall?

— Start focusing on fundraising at the grassroots. Republican fundraising consultants in California are about as rare as Jeff Flake at a MAGA rally. No one is out there raising local money for local candidates. Again, the top-heavy approach of Sacramento PAC fundraisers setting up dinners at Frank Fat’s does nothing to help a candidate running for the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.

— Start building candidate development committees in every county, a body of respected party elders and donors who are plugged in to the business community and can raise money for candidates they identify as promising prospects. Unless we have funded candidates, we lose. It simply isn’t enough to simply have the right philosophy.

In the desolate 2018 political wasteland that is California, the Republican Party is doomed if it continues along the same course it has for years. The top-down strategy of a burned-out political consultant class in Sacramento running the show isn’t working any more. It is said that “all political roads in California lead to Sacramento.” Well, those roads are now blocked to Republicans. For a rebirth of our prospects here, we need to start taking the back roads that run through Paso Robles, Gilroy, Hanford, Manteca and Modesto. Go local or die!

Andrew Russo is a Republican political consultant based in Hollister, CA. He owns Paramount Communications. He can be reached at russo@winwithparamount.com or 831-595-8914.


  1. Amen and amen…

    Being conservative, the Republican Party had continued to operate the same way it always has, and neglected the infrastructure to leverage technology like the Democrat Party has done.

    Just for shiggles, I signed up for a Demonrat Party email list and they seriously send out a minimum of FIVE emails DAILY, screeching about every POTUS tweet, news development and othet issue of the day.

    It must work, because they ginned up their base, flipped Colorado blue, just as described in the book “The Blueprint” and are spreading like a cancer to infect Florida, Virginia and even TEXAS!!! Look how close Beto boy came to winning…

    The POTUS would be wise to limit his Tweets, as they only inflame the hysterical left, and let his actions speak louder than words…

    But yeah, a wholesale infrastructure revamp is necessary, because the left has the moneyed elites, the media, the unions, the tech lords of the universe all on their side…

    Things look bleak at this point, but it’s always darkest before the dawn…

    • PDJT is like the proverbial leopard:
      He ain’t goin’ to change his spots at this point in his life.
      His “tweets” are what he is, and how he bypasses the media gate-keepers to get his message to his base.

  2. Lori Jenkins says

    Until voter fraud is eliminated and illegal immigrants are sent back to their homelands, the republicans will never regain control of California.

  3. Frank Calamia says

    What is the percentage of Hispanics that attend Mass? Of these, how many vote for Democrats? We keep hearing about the Hispanic voting block that support Democrats. I submit our message needs more direction towards this group. For example, there is not a practicing Christian that should ever vote for a Democrat. It is a sin to support abortion, LGBT, and the immorality. The Democrats support everything that is abhorrent to the Christian voting block. My advice is to do an alter call siting the sinful nature of the Democratic Party. Invite believers to support the GOP for its stand against the murder of babies. Stop playing nice. This is a street fight so get in the street and get dirty.

  4. For starters, clean up the voter rolls. For example, I moved out of state, registered to vote in my new home state, and I still received a calif absentee ballot which I voided and returned in pieces with a note telling them to get their act together. Next, ensure the census does not count illegal aliens. Secure the border. Closely monitor all voting locations. Stop early voting. Paper ballots only. Require absentee voting requests be must be made/renewed every year to ensure the voter meets the requirements to vote absentee.

  5. Where’s the beef to compete with Soros, Bloomberg and Styer’s money?
    When the rules of the game are dirty, you better be ready to play dirty to win. Rocket man, we have a problem.

  6. TheRandyGuy says

    Unfortunately,CA is a lost cause for all the reasons Russo listed. The only possibility is for a financial failure that the voters attribute solely to Democrats and even then, it’s at best a 50-50 chance voters would eject Dems from control.

  7. We got Gray Davis recalled fifteen years ago…but a lot has changed since then…

  8. There’s never of a shortage of people giving advice to the CRP or local CCs, but there is always a shortage of money.

    • There is no shortage of money when it comes to electing Democrats & Republicans to office, after all how else can Foreign Governments, Lobbyists, Corporations, Banks & Wall Street retain power over the masses.
      Ask your elected official if I am wrong.

    Our country can not afford to be governed by incompetence which will probably happen when the DEMOCRATS regain power.
    The ignorance of those voting will eventually determine whether Democracy will succeed in the future. An UNEDUCATED lot being allowed to vote may prove our downfall.

  10. Make sure Mike Madrid is not used in SoCal at all. He worked for Antonio Valar this June 2018.

    • showandtell says

      ….And he is on record as talking and acting like a Democrat before that.
      As I recall he was often behind the efforts of cities to strategize voters to raise taxes on themselves. Successful efforts.
      He is often rolled out and quoted as a CA Repub spokesman — I’ve noticed it especially lately — and you’re right, it needs to stop. By calling himself a Republican he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
      But then there are so many…

  11. Gotta Gedada Displace says

    “Oh, hey, you know, I haven’t heard too much from the horse out in the barn lately — maybe next week we ought to find the number and call that guy to check that barn door lock, ya think ?”
    In their fury at a catastrophic loss, the GOP will rush into action that will even make their heroic fight against “Top -2 primaries” look like standing still ! Oh, wait, hold on – what’s that, you say ??

  12. vistacharlie says

    Sounds like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. What is needed is to challenge the constitutionality of these voting procedure, ballot harvesting”, “top two primary”, lack of voter ID. And one thing that was also bad was that Prop 9, to split the state was withdrawn by court order. SCOTUS needs to get involved, big time. Where is the GOP on this? How can they represent the citizens if they do not defend themselves on the political playing field.

  13. California resident and I work at the DMV and there were almost 2 million Illegals voting in this past election. I have access to the database and new voters were mainly all ILLEGALS, FELONS. California is pretty screwed up and only going to get worse with dick head newsom

  14. Funny thing, but any blue state, once blue, never turns red again. Look at the map. Even when a viable candidate for governor or house or senate is before them, the Dem continues to win. Not a good omen. Illinois, NY, NJ, Vermont, Mass, and now CA and Oregon and WA.

  15. Jeremy Naves says

    The problem is apathy and hopelessness amongst the electorate. There is a devolvement of the American culture as civics lessons and history are forgotten. We have uneducated teenage immigrants who beed to start at kindergarten level, but schools accommodate and residents who have gone through the educational system suffer. Math is no longer a requirement to get a 2 year degree from college!

    The solution is to have the Republican party go back to the basics and put forth only upstanding citizens. The focus needs to be on liberty (the true liberals) and not on the social policies such as drug enforcement or gay marriage. Tell people how Democratic and progressive programs limit the people’s liberty, how they destroy the ability to enable wealth creation, how they reault in the erosion of the middle class and the Anerican Dream. Republicans need to show that the “feel good” policies of the left lead to decay and despair because they are managed by people who are fallable and corruptible who seek to control the people. Cite examples of welfare state collapses. A principle of liberty first policy making needs to be the platform that Republicans stand on. That is the basis of this country and that message needs to be re-established.

  16. How does the Republican party unteach what has been taught to too many Americans today. The young, the future of this country, do not even know the country they live in. Once programmed, it is very hard to establish a rapport or trust or new belief system with those sadly already indoctrinated. Many challenges, to say the least.

  17. Philip Chin says


    Point #1 – CALIFORNIA GOP = RINO’s
    Point #2 – The California GOP has no answer to Immigration, especially the many Asians living in LA and SF. (e.g. 30% population): YET most Asian-Americans are actually strong conservatives. But on the other hand, the weak-kneed California GOP doesn’t want strong Immigration policies that might offend their fellow Calif. Asians.
    Point #3 – Hence, below is the answer for Point #2.

    Asian Americans – The Model Minority – Created in the year 1882 by the Chinese Exclusion Act

  18. “…a return to Hiram Johnson-style popular democracy…”
    When you have a President who leads in that direction, it should be easy to follow that lead; except the GOPe is composed mostly of NeverTrump’ers, who would rather be dead than to espouse any form of “populism”. Well, guess what GOPe, in CA you are dead.

  19. My solution would be to give all socialists fleet enemas until clear. The end result being there would be nothing left of any of them.

  20. Republicans are the ones pushing for stronger legislation to prevent convicted felons who abuse our most vulnerable citizens from having their criminal records expunged. Kamala Harris, a Democrat, appears to care less about our most vulnerable citizens. As with many politicans who favor protecting stakeholders from liablity after someone abuses a defenseless 90 year old, Harris is only concerned with protecting her donors who may be sued in a lawsuit after an elderly person is abused. This is NOT the kind of woman we need as President or even as a Senator. Cold. Heartless. Can’t protect us. Wont’, actually by her actions here:


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