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California to host GOP presidential primary debate

The Republican National Committee announced Friday that one of the nine GOP presidential primary debates it’s sanctioning will be held somewhere in California in September.

It remains to be seen whether the California debate will be held in a GOP-friendly area like San Diego or Orange County, or if it’ll be in the belly of the liberal beast – like the dreaded San Francisco Bay Area.

head to head“The 2016 cycle is underway, and I can tell you it will be a landmark election for Republicans,” RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in a news release, issued as the national GOP holds its Winter meeting in San Diego. “By constructing and instituting a sound debate process, it will allow candidates to bring their ideas and vision to Americans in a timely and efficient way. This schedule ensures we will have a robust discussion among our candidates while also allowing the candidates to focus their time engaging with Republican voters.”

The debates are scheduled for:

  • August 2015 in Ohio, hosted by Fox News
  • September 2015 in California, hosted by CNN
  • October 2015 in Colorado, hosted by CNBC
  • November 2015 in Wisconsin, hosted by Fox Business
  • December 2015 in Nevada, hosted by CNN
  • January 2016 in Iowa, hosted by Fox News
  • February 2016 in New Hampshire, hosted by ABC News
  • February 2016 in South Carolina, hosted by CBS News
  • February 2016 in Florida, hosted by NBC/Telemundo
  • California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte said the fact that the Golden State – which won’t hold its presidential primary until June 7 – will host a debate “is a testament to the role California will play in the upcoming 2016 election. We are excited to be part of the streamlined debate schedule and look forward to hosting a robust group of candidates that will share their vision and passion to help move America forward beyond the failed policies of President Obama.”

    The RNC said it and the broadcast partners soon will announce conservative media partners and panelists. Other possible debates still pending are a Fox News forum in March, a CNN forum in 2016 and a conservative media event at some point along the way.

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    Musings on the state GOP, Congress, pot & Kansas

    A few observations on Tuesday’s elections, with a hat tip to my colleagues Paul Rogers and Ken McLaughlin for their thoughts:

    CALIFORNIA GOP: Tuesday’s results seem to be a vindication and victory for the “Brulte Doctrine,” spelled out by the state GOP chairman at his party’s convention in March: Don’t waste much effort trying to win unwinnable statewide races, but instead rebuild the party by “grinding it out on the ground” in local races – a strategy that will take several election cycles to bear larger fruit.

    Despite their buzz, Ashley Swearengin and Pete Peterson couldn’t make it happen statewide: as it stands now, it looks like a 5.6-point loss for Swearengin in the controller’s race and a 5-point loss for Peterson in the secretary of state’s race. Those are respectable losses but losses nonetheless, and I submit that the GOP putting more money and party resources behind them might actually have resulted in wider margins of loss – I think they did this well in part by distancing themselves from partisanship.

    Instead, Brulte’s GOP concentrated on denying Democrats their legislative supermajorities – and now it’s “mission accomplished” in the state Senate while the Assembly still hangs by a thread as vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

    In doing so, the GOP is hatching a new generation of up-and-comers. Exhibit A: Catharine Baker, who at this hour is up 3.8 points over Democrat Tim Sbranti in the East Bay’s 16th Assembly District race. Baker, an attorney hailed as a cream-of-the-crop “California Trailblazer” at her party’s convention in March, was far outspent by Sbranti, who already had some name recognition among the electorate as Dublin’s mayor. But GOP officials and activists came from around the state to pound the pavement for her, and it looks like it could pay off with the first Bay Area Republican sent to Sacramento since Guy Houston was term-limited out (in the same part of the East Bay) in 2008.

    CONGRESS: Anyone who’s surprised that Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and gained seats in the House isn’t very well-versed in history. A two-term president’s party almost always loses ground in his sixth-year midterm.

    Sure, President Barack Obama’s job-approval rating stood at 42 percent (per Gallup) on Tuesday. And President George W. Bush’s job approval was at 38 percent in November 2006 as Democrats picked up five Senate seats and 31 House seats, making Harry Reid the new Senate Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi the new House Speaker. And President Ronald Reagan was riding high with a 63 percent job-approval rating in November 1986 (although he was about to take a precipitous dive as details of the Iran-Contra scandal came to light) as Democrats picked up eight Senate seats, putting Robert Byrd in the driver’s seat, and five House seats to cement the majority they already had.

    The exception was President Bill Clinton, who saw his party pick up five House seats in 1998 – a stinging defeat that left Republicans in control but forced Newt Gingrich to resign as Speaker – while the Senate was a zero-sum game. Clinton, under fire for the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, still was at a 66 percent job-approval rating at the time.

    But Bubba always had a way of defying the odds.

    MARIJUANA: If Oregon and Alaska got enough younger voters out to the polls in this midterm election to approve marijuana legalization, just imagine what California can do in 2016’s presidential election with an initiative forged in the trial-and-error of four other states’ experiences.

    KANSAS: Kansas has had private-sector job growth that lags the rest of the country, and adopted tax cuts big enough to blow a still-widening hole in the state budget requiring school closings, teacher layoffs and increased class sizes – but doubled down with its Republican governor and Republican U.S. Senator. I guess you can lead a Jayhawk to water, but you can’t make it drink…

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    Rand Paul to keynote California GOP convention

    U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will keynote the California Republican Party’s fall convention this September in Los Angeles, the party announced Friday.

    Paul, a tea party favorite and son of longtime libertarian icon and former Rep. Ron Paul, is considered a possible 2016 presidential contender. His focus on issues like privacy, avoiding foreign military entanglements and rethinking the war on drugs helps him draw a younger, more diverse crowd than many in his party, as demonstrated by his enthusiastic welcome at UC-Berkeley in March.

    “Senator Paul understands that a balanced budget doesn’t have to come on the backs of taxpayers,” said state GOP chairman Jim Brulte. “He is a tireless advocate for freedom, an independent thinker, and a dedicated public servant.”

    Party vice chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon said Paul “is working to preserve liberty for all Americans, as guaranteed by our Constitution.”

    Paul said this is “a critical year for Republicans, especially in California,” and he’s excited “to join Republicans in California at the convention as we work together to strengthen our great nation.”

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    CAGOP14: Pete Sessions on building party unity

    California conservatives need to put aside their differences and remember who the real threat is, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions told reporters Saturday at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame.

    Sessions, R-Texas, said whether they identify as Tea Partiers, nonpartisans, Republicans or what have you, they must understand that “to win, and to have people in place to fight democrats and liberals, is what this is about.”

    The alternative is “big government, expensive government, and we will fail to answer the bill for having our infrastructure, our military, our livelihood to build a better future,” he said. That should motivate “fear of where we are headed and why it’s got to be stopped.”

    Regarding Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s continuing efforts to lure California businesses away to Texas, Sessions replied that some companies “chose to move because they had a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to run their businesses efficiently,” and that’s easier under the looser regulations and lower taxes that Texas’ conservative government offers.

    But Sessions – who’ll address the convention’s banquet Saturday night – said “the Republican Party in California has a man in Jim Brulte who has a desire to win conservative Republican races” with an approach that’s less about ideological purity and more about running a pro-business, limited-government party.

    Asked about Brulte’s strategy of focusing this year upon key congressional, legislative and local races rather than tough-if-not-unwinnable statewide contests, Sessions replied that “putting a person in every single race is not an effective way for you to use your money or resources.”

    But rising food and gas prices, President Obama’s refusal to pursue “common sense” job and energy ideas like the Keystone XL pipeline, “the miserable failure of their healthcare” bill and Democrats’ “shrill liberalism and dogma” should give Republicans a strong message around which to unite in 2014, Sessions said.

    Obamacare is the prime example, he said, with even some Democrats voting for bills to roll back certain sections of the Affordable Care Act after “they recognized they’re in trouble at home and they need to vote for repeal.” Meanwhile, other Democrats continue to stick to this “bad deal.”

    That’s the trouble with liberal Democrats, Sessions said: “They want to tell you what you have to do. If it was so great, it should’ve been an option.”

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    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…
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    Former Rep. Ernie Konnyu won’t take on Newsom

    Republican former Rep. Ernie Konnyu has decided not to challenge Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for his seat this year – mainly because nobody in his party would bankroll him.

    Konnyu, 76, of San Jose, had said last Friday he was considering such a run, but he sent an e-mail Wednesday saying he has decided against it.

    Though he still believes Newsom to be vulnerable, “the only problem with my election formula was that I could not find a producer to finance this fun show,” Konnyu wrote Wednesday. “The Republican State Chairman, former Senator Jim Brulte, showed no interest in fielding anybody against Newsom. That was especially true with me since he disrespected me in 2004 and we haven’t talked since.”

    Santa Clara County Republican Party Chairman Charles Munger Jr., who has bankrolled a few campaigns from his own pocket, didn’t want to meet with him about such a candidacy, Konnyu wrote: “Same with the state’s Lincoln Club leaders, a traditional source of Republican campaign dollars.”

    And his wife wasn’t happy with the idea of him sinking their money into it either, he wrote. “Yep! She put her foot down even though I would not have put in an amount close to the minimum $1.7 million I needed.”

    “So my friends, NO CAMPAIGN FOR ME,” he wrote.