The 2022 CAGOP Convention opened in Anaheim on Friday.
During the first day candidates, delegates, guests and others said one word more than most: Optimism. Amid California facing worsening crime rates, a stagnating state government, low voter turnout, high gas prices, a higher cost of living, a housing shortage, wildfires, strangled businesses, more people leaving the state, California public schools losing students, and a whole host of other problems, those in the GOP are seeing 2022 as the first time in quite a long time that Republicans are able to start to come back in the state.
And not only that, but many are pointing at setting up ways for a stronger future party.
A need for greater voter turnout was brought up by many at the Convention. “In California it’s about getting voter to give a damn,” said Mike Netter, the Campaign Supervisor for Attorney General Candidate Eric Early. “During the 2020 Presidential election, LA County had a record number of people vote for president. But the Attorney General race had only just over half that. Over a million people failed to check a box three races down.”
Netter, as well as many others, noted that turnout is high when candidates or Propositions stand out, but not so on other races.
“A lot of people came out for propositions they cared about,” remarked one delegate to the Globe. “Prop. 16, the affirmative action one, comes to mind. A lot of people thought that would be a shoo-in because of how previous races went for turnout, but a lot of impassioned people came out and defeated Prop 16 handily. And that’s a big message: vote. Don’t just select the races and props you want then junk the rest. A lot of the largest decisions are made in some of the most local offices.”
“2020 had the largest turnout since 1952 in the state. That’s great. But that doesn’t mean anything if voters are only voting on one or two races. So it’s big that Republican candidates and their teams bring out the vote too.”
Netter also added that focus should also go to smaller races with important and powerful positions at stake, such as city leadership and the Attorney General, rather than just the bigger races.
“I challenge you to ask 10 people on the street who our current Attorney General is,” said Netter. “You’ll get one if you’re lucky. And they don’t realize just how important the Attorney General choice actually is.”
Increased diversity in the GOP
Another major point stressed by many at the convention, and one that many are proud to relate, is the rapidly increasing diversity of both the party and party candidates.
“For years, the GOP has held this stigma of being mainly white, maybe with a few Asian candidates, and only a few women,” explained Sharon, a convention guest to the Globe on Friday. “It’s not true, but that was what people thought. Look now. The worsening political climate and the natural diversification of California itself has drawn so many to the GOP that it can’t be ignored now. Not just race-wise either. A lot of women are running. The California GOP is actually making the Democrats look like the less diverse ones now.”
Tito, a volunteer for the Anthony Trimino for Governor campaign added, “California has a 38% Latino population. In a generation, it will be over half. Some Latinos, they hear of a candidate being a conservative Republican, they don’t want to hear it. But when I tell them that they are Cuban-Mexican, they’ll come back to listen.”
Multiple candidates and volunteers related stories that highlighted how conservative many Latinos are, especially those that are second generation or older.
“Those that initially come here don’t have much love for Republicans because they see them as the ones trying to bring them back or putting up walls to keep them out,” noted a volunteer for a County Republican Party. “But once in and established, you have business owners, heavy Catholics with strong abortion stances, and others who find a lot to like about the GOP. They’re a big part of the future of the GOP, and it’s already showing.”
A growing number of candidates and supporters have also been coming from the African American community, a longtime stronghold for the Democratic Party. Among those challenging Democratic candidates this June in the primaries are Allison Pratt, who hopes to take on Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) in the 43rd and Joe Collins, a Navy Veteran taking on Ted Lieu (D-CA) in the 36th.
“We need to listen to our communities,” stressed Collins. “The cost of living, gas prices, affording a place to live. That is affecting every Californian regardless of other differences.”
Others noted the strong, if not majority, female presence within the GOP in recent years, with many Republican women entering races at all levels, including Jenny Rae Le Roux for Governor.
“I came out to California with nothing but my belongings inside a Honda,” said Le Roux. “And now I’m a California Mom making a difference. California is a diversifying state. My son here is in a Charter school with Spanish classes, and there is Newsom in Sacramento with his children in private schools. He’s out of touch on the situation.”
Le Roux, Pratt, and others also took pride in the “Mom” title, saying multiple times in interviews that they are Moms running for higher office.
“A lot of women are really going for the ‘Mom’ part of their lives, and it’s a pretty strong connection for many,” continued Sharon. “A lot of women know that mothers can handle a lot, and men know who really run things. I can see why so many are pushing it this year.”
Many Californian Republicans eye a comeback
Finally, candidates are being a lot more flexible in terms of where they fall ideologically, with many focusing on the economy, crime, cost of living, as well as other important subjects not brought up by other parties.
Eric Early, a candidate for Attorney General, noted the failure of Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta in multiple investigations and not looking into many others.
“I would investigate state entities big time. I would investigate the EDD losing $30 billion. I would investigate the no-bid contracts Newsom okayed. I would look into the alliance of the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) and Newsom.”
“In 2018 we had an Attorney General candidate debate, but so far this year we have had no debate. We need to debate these people. We need to question why they have not investigated these problems with the state.”
Candidates themselves also went into how the shift away from a solely moderate stance has allowed many new candidates to enter races.
“For a long time the stance has been to be more moderate to better challenge Democrats,” added Sharon. “But it didn’t work in many cases. So now you have many candidates, like Early, who are breaking that mold. In some areas a more conservative candidate would better to win, while others more moderate. Other places simply need a candidate who can draw in crowds and support. We’re allowed to be more flexible, and the support is starting to show.”
Those at the convention also remarked how signs of a turnaround are contributing to the optimism of the party this year, including Newsom getting over 2 million signatures to be placed on a recall ballot last year, three members of the San Francisco School Board being recalled earlier this year, SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin likely to be recalled in June, and LA DA George Gascon currently being on track to be placed on a recall ballot later this year.
“It’s quite the tide,” said one delegate. “We’re not expecting to get back the Assembly or House overnight, but maybe we’ll get a few more this election, and then another few, and then another few. And, based on the elections so far this year, it will really help Republicans here out. You can see why most in the party are feeling good about this year.”
Or, as Eric Early put it in his Globe interview “We’re coming back. I know we’re coming back. The change comes through Republican elected officials. A Republican can win in 2022. Especially the chief law enforcement officer and legal officer.”
The CAGOP Convention will be led throughout the weekend in Anaheim.
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