The California Republican Party, after stinging losses at the polls in November, is facing a new hurdle before it can begin to contemplate a path to recovery: an internal identity crisis far more acute than is playing out in the party nationally.
Jessica Patterson, the CEO of California Trailblazers, a Republican state candidate-recruiting program, is the latest name in the GOP chairmanship sweepstakes to generate statewide buzz.
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The former field director for Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign who has also held top roles at the state GOP, plans to make an announcement soon about her intentions, sources close to her tell the Washington Free Beacon.
If Patterson enters the race, she would immediately fill the vacuum for the more business-friendly moderate wing of the party left open by former Assemblyman David Hadley's recent exit from the chairmanship race. The campaign for the state GOP's top post will determine the tone, fundraising, and messaging strategy needed to try to resurrect the party's relevancy.
Hadley last week dropped out of the race, releasing a curt statement, arguing that he's seen "zero sign" that the remaining contenders "understand the magnitude of our challenges or steps needed to rebuild the GOP's fortunes in California," according to a report in Politico. He says the party needs to address plummeting GOP voter registrations and resistance to "adapt to the state's changing demographics."
The statement didn't mention President Trump by name, but the absence of a reference spoke volumes combined with his talking points.
Some Republican strategists are pushing the party to distance themselves from Trump entirely—the opposite of current GOP state chairman Jim Brulte's posture. The outgoing chairman fully embraced Trump's populist message, inviting former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon to deliver the keynote address at the state party's 2017 convention after he was pushed out as Trump's top adviser.
Hadley's decision to bow out of the race left two farther right Trump backers—Travis Allen and Steve Frank—vying for the post. Allen is a state assemblyman from Huntington Beach who generated a loyal base of enthusiasm during his unsuccessful bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
Allen has voiced support for prosecuting "rampant voter fraud" and advocated recalling progressive Democrat Gavin Newsom before he was sworn in as governor.
Allen has outlined an idea for creating a "California 100,000" campaign—an effort to encourage 100,000 registered Republicans to donate $10 a moth to the party so he can refill the party committee coffers and create more sustainable and stable party funding.
Frank is a Simi Valley conservative activist and well-known GOP commentator on conservative talk radio. An early entrant into the race, he reached out to state delegates shortly after the blowout congressional defeats in November to make his case.
He says the Republican party has "unilaterally disarmed itself" by "failing to mount effective voter registration efforts to match Democrats' more aggressive moves." He has also blasted the state's "top-two" primary, which he has labeled a Democratic effort at Republican "voter suppressions," according to Politico.
He faulted the California GOP for running away from Trump: "We should have been talking about the miracle of the economic recovery under Trump, his willingness to stand up in trade negotiations. … We were so afraid of saying ‘Donald Trump,' that they forgot the great stuff that Trump did."
Billionaire and megadonor Tom Steyer, who announced Wednesday he would not run for president, funded an effort to register millions of new Democratic voters across the country, with a special focus on battleground congressional districts in California.