CAGOP14: ‘A significant rebuilding operation’

California Republicans “have a significant rebuilding operation on our hands,” state GOP Chairman Jim Brulte told reporters at the party’s convention Friday.

BrulteBrulte said he has met with more than 200 Republican groups across the state since his election as chairman one year ago, and tells them all the same thing.

“We have frank talks. This is a party that, whether we like it or not, has been in decline for two decades in this state,” he said. “We have to get back to basics, we have to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of winning elections.”

So the state party has three goals this year: Help the national GOP maintain control of the House; eliminate the Democratic supermajorities in the state legislature; and helping with local elections where and how it can.

“A lot of people, like moths, like to go to the light, and the light is those big races” at the top of the ticket, Brulte said, but rebuilding the party means “grinding it out on the ground” in local races – a strategy that will take several election cycles to bear larger fruit.

Local races are won by candidates who look and sound most like – and most share the values and experiences of – the local voters, he said. And winning requires not only the right candidate, but also the right message, enough money, and a strong campaign field organization, he added.

That’s not to say every legislative and local Republican candidate will receive money or direct support from the state party, he said – with 100 legislative races and uncounted local contests, that’s impossible.

“We don’t bake cakes,” he said – but if the National Republican Congressional Committee, county GOP committees and candidates can do so, the state party might be able to add some icing to help put them over the top.

Read more from Brulte, after the jump…

Asked if some communities might still be alienated by past GOP actions and rhetoric – like Latinos still angry about the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 of 1994 – Brutle replied that he doesn’t “buy the narrative that we can’t win votes in every community.”

“We have ceded too much ground to the Democrats by not even showing up to compete,” he said.

GOP leaders and elected officials have spent too much time preaching to the choir and not enough talking to those who might not agree with the party on all issues, Brulte said. “We have to get outside our comfort zones and go talk to people who aren’t on our team right now.”

Brulte only just this week scheduled the four Republican gubernatorial candidates to speak at the convention, sparking speculation that he had hoped to avoid airing the party’s ideological divides and any arch-conservative opinions that might not play well among the general electorate.

He bristled when asked if it’s “traditional” for gubernatorial candidates to speak at the party convention (which it is). “’Traditional has gotten us a decline for the past 20 years,” he said, noting statewide candidates were given speaking slots at the 2010 convention and all of them lost.

He said there are “at least two or three” statewide races he considers to be truly competitive, but he declined to say which ones.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.