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California Republicans pin turnaround hopes on new chairman

  • File - In this July 24, 2003 file photo, then State Sen. Minority Leader Jim Brutle, right, speaks next to then Senate President Pro tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, left, during a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif. As Republicans nationwide reconsider the party's direction, nowhere is their challenge more daunting than in California. In an attempt to restore their party to relevance, Republican delegates are expected to elect as their new chairman this weekend a former state lawmaker who is widely seen as a pragmatist and a political moderate. But it's far from clear whether the former state senator, Jim Brulte, or anyone else can turn around the party's political fortunes. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

SACRAMENT — As Republicans nationwide reconsider the party's direction, nowhere is their challenge more daunting than in California.

The state that produced Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and the "Orange County conservative" has banished the GOP to the margins, with the party now accounting for less than 30 percent of all registered voters.

The decades-long slide became painfully apparent following last fall's election, when Republicans lost four congressional seats and Democrats captured supermajorities in both houses of the California Legislature. Latinos, Asians, women and younger voters who make up the bulk of the state's electorate all turned away from a party that is seen as driven by conservatives who are out of touch with their views.

In an attempt to restore their party to relevance, Republican delegates are expected to elect as their new chairman this weekend a former state lawmaker who is widely seen as a pragmatist and a political moderate.

But it's far from clear whether the former state senator, Jim Brulte, or anyone else can turn around the party's political fortunes. Even the party's official platform seems a better fit for socially conservative Arkansas than California. It pledges opposition to gay marriage, "alternative" lifestyles, abortion and universal health care, while supporting efforts to declare English as the official language of business.


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