Studio Sacramento: California’s Republican Party – KVIE


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of the conversation and hope you’ll join in. ♪♪>>Today, no Republican
holds state-wide office, and recently Democrats
held two thirds majorities in both houses of
the legislature. Are California Republicans
an endangered species? What happened to the party of
Ronald Regan and Earl Warren, who not only dominated
California politics, but went on to
national prominence. What’s next for the party,
and what are the implications if California remains
essentially a one-party state? Joining us today on
Studio Sacramento are Yolo County Supervisor and redistricting strategist,
Matt Rexroad, and Political Consultant,
Rob Stutzman. Gentlemen, given the
current state of Republicans holding office, Matt, does the patient
have a pulse?>>Ah, the patient certainly- surely has a pulse
in California. I think that California needs
a strong Republican Party, and it needs to become
stronger without a doubt. But good public policy
indicates that there has to be a pushback and
the Republicans need to argue for those principles
that they hold dear. And I think that good
California government depends upon that
voice being strong.>>[Sighs] Rob…
how did we get here?>>Well, we got here
largely through demographic shifts in
California, and a Republican Party that,
in its history, ironically, since we are the party that issued the
Emancipation Proclamation, has therefore then struggled
with emerging minority and immigrant communities
throughout its history. So that’s an element of this, is our demographics
have changed, but California’s decline in
Republican Party statewide is largely, I think,
due to demographic shifts.>>And not like Prop. 187
and Pete Wilson?>>No, I’m not gonna blame…>>Because that- that tends to
be the national, sort of…>>Well, I identified there
has been a problem with being able to
relate and reach out to immigrant communities, which in California obviously
is largely Hispanic. 187 ended up leaving a
residual scar, there’s- there’s no
question about that. But that’s also quite a ways
in the rearview mirror.>>Sure, sure.>>And you’re in the second
generation now, with a lot- lot of those communities
from the days of 187.>>Who probably wouldn’t even
remember Prop. 187, right?>>Well they just- they’ve
heard it talked about, y’know and they’re heard certain
people still demonized. I think Pete Wilson did
what any politician of any party would have
done at the time, which is capitalize on an issue that
passed overwhelmingly in order to secure their
own re-election, so I don’t think it’s fair
to demonize Pete Wilson. One think that’s interesting, I wanna point out as we start
this discussion though, is… there are supermajorities
of Democrats in the state legislature, in
the Congressional Delegation that control all the
statewide offices, but a majority of local officials
in California are Republican.>>Really? …Really?>>Absolute true.
Yes, so Republicans are being involved in
local government, and it’s there that you see-
Republicans have to focus on actually governing and
delivering local services. Like Matt, as a county
supervisor has to do. So when I- if I am
optimistic about anything, it is that Republicans
and Republican principals have manifested themself
at the local level. And when you strip
away party labels, ’cause local government’s
nonpartisan, right? When you take away
the party labels and people are just talking
about Republican principals at the local level,
they’re getting elected, even Democrat-controlled
cities and counties.>>This is fascinating; I’ve
never heard that before.>>Well, there’s a couple
reasons for that. There is the… there’s
the basis of, well, L.A. County has five
supervisors, right? Well so does Shasta County, so, y’know, you tend
to balance those out. Y’know, a lot of
these supervisors who represent very
small populations, there’s supervisors
in Modoc County who get fewer votes
for supervisor than the student body president of
Pleasant Grove High School. And so, it- it’s a very
different way to judge that, but you do have a lot of
cities that are smaller where you do have
Republicans who do get elected to local
office just based on the principals of the party,
by running efficiently. If I’m critical of one thing
of our party nationally, it has been for those issues that we disagree on
that we lose on, we tend to be sore losers and
we just vote ‘no’ forever. In the end,
I think Republicans have a responsibility
to step up and make sure that things like
the Affordable Care Act and others are
administered properly. There’s a role for
the Republicans to push back and argue
for fiscal responsibility and those principals, being
part of the administration of any program that
the government does.>>So, three years ago…>>Mmhmm.>>You joined us to talk about
redistricting in California, and redistricting- the new redistricting that
we’re all living under now… how has it worked, in- in terms of how you
thought it would work back when you first- we
were first discussing this.>>Well, when we
first discussed it, we were only talking about redistricting within the
state of California, and at the time, it was
basically as the result of the gerrymander
that happened in 2001. Twenty years of
demographic changes were all coming upon
California in one election, and that was in the
2012 election. We’re about to experience
our second time here, and so I’m not very-
I’m not really surprised. The other thing that changed this election
cycle this past time- it was the first year
after redistricting, first election after
redistricting, and we had a presidential
election; the turnout was overwhelmingly in
support of President Obama. Back four years ago when he
ran against Senator McCain, we assumed that this was
a high watermark, that President Obama
couldn’t possibly do this, that it was a fluke,
a tidal wave of support. But the reality is he won
California by almost the same percentage margin that
he did four years earlier, I think the water’s here to
stay in terms of California, the way they do that. But interesting you talk
about redistricting. Redistricting is also one
of the key reasons that Republicans really have very
little threat of losing the House of Representatives
in the next decade. We can talk about how
Republicans aren’t doing well in California, but
they’re very likely to hold the House and the
United States Senate after this next election, and that’s because
largely in the House, it’s Republicans
have benefitted by redistricting across
the country. And so why people want to
say that Republicans- you asked whether they
have a pulse or not- well, they’re probably
gonna control two house- two of the three, or
one of the branches of government to both houses
at the federal level, and they’re going to be
playing a role long-term, and I don’t think it’s
impossible to think that a Republican could be the next President of
the United States. It is somewhat improbable
that a Republican would be the next
Governor of California.>>Well, how do you react,
though, to the fact that given Rex’ point of view
for federal politics, why there’s such a disconnect
here in California and how do you all
go about fixing that.>>Well, it’s- y’know,
the federal politics is largely what defines
the brands of politics, both- for both parties. And so when you look at
the problem with the Republican Party
in California, our brand problem
largely exists outside the borders
of the state, okay. So when you see a Republican
primary process for president which gives you a
dozen debates with a bunch of
candidates trying to out right-wing each other
before the Iowa caucuses, it does not help with
our definition out here in California, where we need to
expand our base. California’s last uptick in
Republican voter registration was when George W. Bush was
president in his first term in the days after 9/11, okay. They reacted to his
strong leadership and Republican registration actually ticked up
in California. So I do believe that we
are somewhat slave to the whims of what happens
with national brands, so I am optimistic that a good Republican candidate
for president, which will start to manifest
itself in just over a year, when the campaign starts
getting in the full swing, is part of what has to
happen out here, in terms of- of
changing the brand; that’s the number one,
fundamental thing. Then after that,
we need to be embracing policies that are appropriate
for California and expand our political base. I think of someone like
Congressman Jeff Denham, who is in his district
willing to say, “We need immigration reform. There needs to be some path
to permanency here for- for people that’ll be
part of our economy, while we also still
secure the border.”>>What- what is it, though,
what’s going on in the Republican Party that tends
to generate this level of sort of civil war
that takes place? For instance, in…
in Mississippi, there was a recent election-
or primary election for United States Senate,
but all across the country it seems that there’s
this war between what’s called
‘the establishment…’>>Right.>>And… the more
grassroots folks. What is that all about?>>Well, there is some
struggle within the- I mean, the Republican Party
under Reagan and at its peak, if you will, right, was able
to unite fiscal conservatives social moderates, country
club type Republicans, with more of your very
conservative middle class, socially conservative
Republicans, we united over this thing
called the Cold War, okay. In the era of the last couple
decades without a Cold War, the Republican Party has
struggled at times. We had a war on terror that I think, y’know,
supplemented that for a while but we still have
these fundamental issues that are largely
economic issues and the idea about what
government should be…>>But- but isn’t it true,
though- you talk about Ronald Reagan, the Cold War
and uniting everybody, but gentleman… Ronald Reagan probably
would not survive the Republican
primaries because they consider him a “RINO,”
a Republican in name only.>>Well that’s especially on
the issue of immigration.>>Isn’t that true?>>Well actually, one of
my largest frustrations when I hear people
bring up Ronald Reagan, they talk about the party of
Reagan and whatever else… Ronald Reagan’s record has
been grossly distorted over the- over the decades. It’s been- he was a very-
a very good manager of state government when he was
the Governor of California. And he set that record up
to be able to be elected president because he
managed things appropriately, but Rob made a point
here earlier that I wanna touch on
that’s important. Nationally- people
say all the time, “I wanna change the brand of the California
Republican Party.” There’s not enough money
in the world to be able to do that
when there- when the- there’s this
constant drumbeat on 24-hour news shows coming
out of Washington D.C. that’s setting the brand
of the Republican Party. We can’t- we’re not
gonna be able to do a one-off and change that, we are gonna live with this
broadcast that’s coming out of Washington D.C. regarding
the Republican Party. And if you’re the Republican
leaders in Washington D.C., are you willing to change
the Party in such a way and sacrifice all of those red
flyover states and the South, in order to take a chance
of maybe being able to be competitive in California when you control the
House of Representatives, are likely to control
the U.S. Senate, and have a chance
of electing a President of the
United States? You’re not gonna do that.>>But- but that being said,
there are- there are those who say that what is
happening in California is going to happen to
those other flyover states. As an example… is Texas-
big, giant state and one, frankly, that tends to
frustrate many of us because of them taking away
California jobs all the time. Is there- Republicans
dominate their states politics the way the
Democrats do in California. Is… is Texas the
future of California, or is California the
future of Texas?>>Texas should learn,
to what happened in- to California, in terms of
the demographic changes, and the Republicans there should get on the
front wave of that in being able to
address those issues before it comes home to
change the state of Texas like it did the
state of California; there’s no doubt
about that. But the other point of
this is, is that people want- I have very few
candidates who say, “Hey, vote for me because
I’m a Republican.” They say say,
“Vote for me,” because some of other- some
other issue that defines them or because of their ability
to be able to lead. In California, unfortunately
we’ve also had a problem with our last statewide
office holder, Governor Schwarzenegger, left
office in not a good spot. His Administration was not
considered to be well-run.>>Well wasn’t he also
considered to be a- wasn’t he also considered
to be a “RINO,” a Republican in name only,
though, as well.>>Well, he was, but there’s
other character issues that were involved in that in
terms of administration, and looking back on them you
don’t see anyone saying- you see people running on
the mantle of Ronald Reagan, you even see people
embracing Governor Wilson, bringing him into
certain places. You don’t see anyone saying, “Hey I’ve got the endorsement
of Arnold Schwarzenegger,” I mean, that just
doesn’t happen…>>[Laughing]>>No Democrat or
Republican wants that.>>Well, and Schwarzenegger
arguably never would have been elected
through a normal process, ’cause he would have
had trouble getting through a Republican
primary twelve years ago. That was the special
election of the recall that gave this unique opportunity
to basically have an open election one time to
get him- to get him elected. So, arguably we have not
had… y’know, since 1994, real statewide success. I mean, we’re about
twenty years out.>>But… but didn’t
many people argue that Schwarzenegger’s
brand of Republicanism was what sold in California, and that the Party needed
to be more like him? And- and… but essentially
what both of you gentlemen are saying is is that,
in fact, he was an anomaly that really has no
resonance whatsoever.>>Well you have- you have a
general election problem versus a primary problem,
right? One of the problems, Matt
talked about the gerrymander. Well, why that was
bad for Republicans in the last decade is there’s
[clears throat] the Assembly Republican
Caucus would get together, and they’re all looking
at each other because their competition for the next
Senate seat is in the room. So the pressure was to out
right-wing each other to win a primary for a safe
Republican Senate seat, and it drove politics
to the right.>>Really?>>This happened until
this year, when we had an open primary, it happened as early as
four years ago when Steve Poizner demagogues
on the immigration issue in a closed
Republican primary, forcing Meg Whitman
to the right and making it very difficult to recover from that for
the general election. So our primary politics
where you have basically the same 2- 2.3 million
Republican voters, I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s not in the
scheme of California, having all this influence
on who Republicans would put forward for
statewide office. In the area of open primary, we’ll see if that
changes or not. To date, after two cycles
of open primary, the June- these primaries pretty much function like closed
primaries, only really hardcore partisans
have been turning out, but I think there is some
opportunity in the future. If those turnout dynamics
change, that, y’know, Republican candidates
will not be constrained to this internal conversation when it comes to the
June primaries and hopefully we can elect people that
have broader appeal- nominate people that have
broader appeal.>>Incidentally, you were an
advisor to Meg Whitman…>>Correct.>>…In her run for
Governor. One of the interesting things
that I’ve heard recently, grumbling among Democrats,
is that Jerry Brown is a far more conservative governor,
and has gotten away with more>>[Laughing]>>…In gouging traditional
democratic interest, than Meg Whitman ever
could have, and that he’s governed
to her right.>>Governor Brown is doing
the best impersonation of Ronald Reagan
than anyone else in the capitol
building right now. He’s governing in a
common-sense way, he’s holding the Democrats
feet to the fire in terms of spending, and he is- even
though he has raised taxes, like Governor Reagan did,
he’s pushing back on excessive spending
right now.>>Gray Davis went through
the same thing, frankly, after he was elected ’98,
in his first term. I mean, the only people you
could find willing to criticize Gray Davis in the
press in the first two years in office was John Burton,
then the leader of the Senate.>>Oh really.>>I mean, there is just a
classic executive versus legislative branch tension,
and at the end of the day, the executive, the Governor, needs to be the adult
in the room, especially when it comes
to spending, and- and Brown has done exactly that; he’s been the adult
in the room, the backstop, whatever
you want to call it.>>So should we look forward
to Jerry Brown, this year’s California Republican Party
man of the year? [Laughing]>>No, we shouldn’t, but
the important part that the Republican Party
needs to do is on the implementation of AB 109,
on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,
somebody…>>AB 109, that’s…>>AB 109 is the-
is the realignment of the prison population
in California and how we treat the
state prisons, which I would argue
has been malpractice over twenty, thirty,
forty years of- of the state- of state government not
dealing with these issues. It’s finally come home and
they’re- and basically cost issues are driving
these, and the- and the federal mandate to
be able to change these. Republicans should be pushing
back on Governor Brown, saying, “You’re implementing
these things in an inappropriate way; you’re forcing these
criminals out on the street. You need to own this,” and
right now nobody’s doing that.>>The… the Republican Party
as it- as it moves forward, both this year and
in the future, there are a couple of signs that on a statewide level
things are coming back. Now, in some of the
statewide races there’s at least a
Republican in the mix. Kevin Faulconer recently
won Mayor of San Diego.>>He had a special election.>>In a special election. What- what are those
candidates doing right, and are there any
trends that you see coming out of those races?>>Well, I mean with
Faulconer it goes back to what we were saying
about local government. I mean, even though there
was a partisan venire to that race in San Diego, there’s still a sense of
local governing issues not being hardcore
partisan issues. And so Faulconer comes off
the council presenting himself as the more
competent manager in a real contrast to the mayor
that just had to resign, because Kevin’s a pretty
understated, quiet, mild guy and I think San Diego was-
was ready for that; voters often seek the opposite
of what they just had. But you’ve got-
you got candidates running statewide like… Ashley Swearengin,
the Mayor of Fresno, other large city
Republican mayor.>>And wasn’t there
a guy who- who spent six hundred bucks
and almost made it into…>>David Evans.>>…Into the final runoff.>>Well, that should- that’s
a whole discussion about is our state too big, and can
candidates even communicate adequately in a state this
size about who they are? Yeah, David Evans almost
makes it largely, we would assume, because he
had a- a name that seemed… fairly Republican,
[laughing] I suppose.>>Anglo, is that what
you’re saying? [Laughing]>>And Anglo, and he also had
a ballot title as a CPA.>>But- [stuttering] but
the issue there is, it tells you
how much different the June election is versus
the November election. So, we had an overwhelmingly Republican electorate
this past June, and in November it’s gonna
be vastly different. And these- the way these
elections are working, y’know, the June election
doesn’t reflect the two best candidates likely to go onto
November, often times. And so we do have several
places in California where we’re gonna have
Democrat on- or Republican on Republican
general election runoffs, and I guess that’s okay. As a political consultant, I’ve never gotten the
mail into Compton before. Last cycle, I was mailin’
into Compton and, y’know, Oakland, and San Francisco,
which is actually interesting to learn the
demographics of those areas, but that never happened under
the closed primary system.>>Are- are…
Mr. Rexroad…>>Yes.>>…Are you replicating
what happened with Thad Cochran in
Mississippi recently?>>Well, you know somethin’,
they’re- the issue, and the reason I came to support
the open primary system, is I worked for a very
conservative legislator in Los Angeles County for
years, and I knew exactly how many Republicans
were in that district. And somebody asked me once, “Well how many Democrats
are in your district?” I’m like, “I dunno,” and they’re like,
“Why don’t you know?” I’m like,
“They don’t matter.” And then they were like,
“Well, isn’t that terrible? You have…”
and the number was, y’know, sixty,
seventy thousand people. And like, well,
“Why don’t you- isn’t that terrible that
they don’t have a voice?” I’m like,
“Well, they don’t.” And so, right now with this
open primary system, you see candidates building
coalitions all over the place and they’re building
them uniquely, and… party label is part of it,
and so Republicans wouldn’t matter in
San Francisco, unless… you’re in a runoff
between two candidates and you’re looking to pick up
fifteen percent of the vote, that’s- that’s part of
your formula to get to fifty percent plus one.>>Incidentally, Thad Cochran
is the U.S. Senator incumbent from Mississippi who recently
won a contested primary by going after a liberal, Democratic, mostly
African-American voters. And… that was a national
story for a little while. I am curious, though, when it
comes to coalition building, Rob, and also trying to
actually approximate the demographics
of California, what does the
Republican Party need to do in order to be more
competitive in those districts that
Matt’s talking about?>>Well, they- they need to
know how many Democrats in their districts and why-
and why they matter.>>They do now.>>They do now. I mean, the
new system has forces that. So, y’know, politics
responds to the market place, so when Matt was talkin’
about that, y’know, safe Republican seat, all that mattered was the
Republican voters, okay. But now we have this
system where, like, for instance here in Placer
County, and full disclosure, I’m working with
this Art Moore, whose running against
Tom McClintock- Republican versus Republican. But now all the Democrats
in the foothills, in Placer, El Dorado, and the other counties
down in the foothills really matter in choosing
their member of Congress. It’s still gonna be
a Republican, it’s still gonna be a
conservative Republican, but my candidate’s out talking to
all voters in the district, something Mr. McClintock
has not done, ’cause all needed in the past
was just the Republicans. This is healthy. So even if incumbents survive
these type of challenges and only go through
’em every once in a while, they at least have to
now be mindful of the fact that I need to have
relationship, coalition, understanding of… being representative of
everyone in my district, even if it is a Democrat in-
in Compton, or if it’s a Republican in Placer County
or Orange Country, you would have to start being
a little bit more mindful that I represent everybody
that lives here.>>Does this mean that
this is the return of the moderate Republican.>>Maybe, maybe not. I mean, I think that it’s
too early to tell, in terms of the way
that the open primary and redistricting
has worked, still, even though we’re gonna be
in our second cycle, but your question in terms of
what Republicans need to do or what can they do,
part of it is showing up. We don’t have a single
partisan officeholder whose a Republican in any of the
Bay Area counties right now. None, not one.
Not a member of Congress, not a member of the
State Assembly, not a member of
the State Senate. We need Republicans from-
who are good ambassadors, to be able to go
into that area and give the
Republican message on why it’s important that that
voice be heard in the area. There are opportunities in
Contra Costa County, and in Santa Clara County, but we’d need to have
people go and show up there. And if you’re a legislator
from Orange County, it’s so easy just to fly
back to John Wayne Airport. Some of them need to go hit
San José and Oakland and fly out of there
before they go back, to be able to deliver that
Republican message which I think is very compelling to the large Vietnamese
community in San José, or the Asian population
even in Alameda County. It’s- there are
opportunities there, but we gotta have somebody
go there and show up.>>So I have a tough
question for you both, [clears throat]
related to that. In talking with a number of
minority Republicans…>>Mmhmm.>>…Their comment has been
that- that traditionally [clears throat] the
Republican Party has not been willing to actually
put resources behind minority candidates
for office, and that there’s a lot
of lip service about going out and doing
outreach, but in fact, “it’s pretty pathetic,”
was the quote that I got from one recent candidate, actually from the
Contra Costa- Alameda area.>>Mmhmm. Well, there’s some-
there’s some desire- in the end,
they’re trying to win, I mean that’s what
you’re trying to do. And so some candidates say,
“Well, hey, I don’t- I don’t… Y’know, they needed to
support me in San Francisco, where I, instead of getting
eleven percent of the vote, if they spent a
million dollars, I can get thirteen percent
of the vote.” That would be
considered wasteful. But one of my clients,
Bonnie Garcia, whose running down in
Riverside County, has received enormous
Republican Party support over the years in her
three elections to the State Assembly, and in the State Senate
race she’s running against another Republican, so it’s
not Republican support, but she’s not running
away from that label. There are lots of examples
of where the Republican Party has supported good candidates who are running in districts
where it fits and makes sense
where they can win, but some of these
districts in San Francisco, that’s not a good
expenditure of money.>>So, in our final moments,
if both of you were ultimately emperors of the
California Republican Party, what’s the one thing
you’d do between now and the next election cycle in
2016 that you think would make a difference
for the candidates? I’ll start with you, Rob.>>Well, I would focus- much
like what Matt just said, I would focus on going to
communities and showing up. I would be recruiting
current electeds, like Matt just eluded to,
to be strike teams to go in and talk- start talking about how we would deal
with urban issues. And then I would focus voter
education and registration on new immigrant
communities. And… this is a lot of
hand-to-hand, door-to-door, but start to change what
are the impressions, and I think misimpressions, that have been left from
the last couple decades.>>Matt, you get the
last word.>>We need to hold people
accountable. In our party,
if we have people who are not living up to our
standards in terms of the way they behave in office
in terms of professionalism, we need to get rid of
them and- and move on. And the Party, before, has
remained relatively silent. When people stub their toe
in such a huge way where they’re
embarrassing the Party, we need to part ways
and go another way. Right now, we don’t
have the ability to be able to do that and
truly hold people accountable and that is how we would
fix the Republican Party.>>Thank you both, gentlemen. We’ll see what happens in
November, stay tuned. We’ll that’s our show. Thanks to our guests
and thanks to you for watching
Studio Sacramento. I’m Scott Syphax,
see you next time, right here on KVIE. ♪♪>>At Five Star Bank, community is at the
heart of what we do. Every day we strive to have
thoughtful solutions for our customers and help
our communities prosper. Honest dialogue about the
issues affecting the region is vitally important to
that prosperity. We are proud to be part
of the conversation and hope you’ll join in.>>All episodes of
Studio Sacramento, along with other
KVIE programs, are available to
watch online at kvie.org/video  

One Reply to “Studio Sacramento: California’s Republican Party – KVIE”

  1. Democrats will have to bankrupt California like they did Detroit Michigan before anybody there considers new ideas that aren't Liberal. Liberal Californians think of themselves as "America's most enlightened people!". Therefore they reason that "We can never be capable of bankrupting California; regardless of who we elect."

    In Germany in the 1930s many Jews didn't realize the danger that was coming their way. They were supposed to be "God's Chosen People." ; they thought the Holocaust couldn't happen to them in Germany. Only to discover one day that they were wrong and they would experience the most horrific experience in America since the end of the 19th Century.

    With nothing but Democrats in control of California who view themselves as "The most enlightened." only people who have an objective view can see any danger coming California's way. Like the Jews in Germany the Democrats believe bad things will never happen to them under any circumstances.

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