In February, the California Republican Party elected Jessica Millan Patterson as Party Chairwoman. Patterson won 55 percent of the vote after a contentious campaign in a Party afflicted with disunity.
“There’s no doubt that newly-elected CAGOP Chairwoman Jessica Patterson deserves the congratulations of all California Republicans in the wake of a well-fought campaign – especially in light of the tasks that lay ahead of her in the coming election cycles,” the Globe said at the February CAGOP Convention. “It’s noteworthy that campaigns of the three candidates for the position of Chair were reflective of the ‘division’ often cited by moderate pundits within the party nationally, as well as state level. Two candidates were identified as conservatives, Trump Supporters, or Anti-Establishment, while the third focused her efforts on promoting messages of inclusiveness and rebuilding the CRP.”
That’s exactly what Patterson has focused on since her election. “My focus is to bring the California Republican Party back,” Patterson said. “There have been deep divisions within the party. To unify is important to grow the party.”
The GOP has people of character from all walks of life who may disagree on some issues, but share common values. As President Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”
Jessica Millan Patterson
Jessica Patterson is a wife, the mother of two young children, and has been steeped in California politics for over a decade. “She previously served as the Executive Director of the CRP’s Victory operation in 2012 and 2010 and as the Statewide Field Director in California for Meg Whitman’s campaign for Governor in 2010. Patterson also led the RNC’s Victory operation in Nevada as the State Director for the 2008 election cycle,” according to her bio.
However, there is much more to meet the eye in this 39-year old bantam-weight Latina; she’s a fighter. Patterson took the job facing head-on the reality that Republicans currently held onto only seven of California’s 53 congressional seats after the 2018 ballot harvesting slaughter. She’s acutely aware that Republicans represent less than a quarter of the seats in both houses of the state Legislature, and registered Republican voters have declined significantly in recent years in the Golden State.
According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 10, 2019, of the 19,978,449 registered California voters, there are 8,612,368 (43.1%) registered Democrats, 4,709,851 (23.6%) registered Republicans, 5,645,665 (28.3%) No Party Preference, and 1,010,565 (5.1%) “other.”
What is the CAGOP Doing Differently?
“We are engaging in communities neglected by our Party,” Patterson said. “We are building up our bench at the local level, and making sure our messages go right to the locals.”
She noted the importance of first recognizing what is relevant to local voters, rather than pushing statewide Party issues, as had been the Party’s practice. “We were failing at discussing policies important to locals,” Patterson said.
“It’s not enough to be the Party of “No” anymore,” Patterson added. “We need to show what to do to make people’s lives better.”
“Democrats have done nothing to solve California’s real issues,” Patterson said, noting nearly a decade of Democrat rule in the Governor’s office and the State Legislature.
Patterson said one of the first priorities was the finance component. She said when she ran for Party Chairwoman she acquired many financial commitments to help rebuild the Party. “After being elected, I went back to them and asked them to up their commitments.” And the CAGOP began diligently expanding their mailing and email lists, and then using those lists to send out updates as well as requests for financial support.
“On fundraising, we are already $1 million ahead of 2017, and online we are $1 million up, including ahead of all of 2018 online contributions,” Patterson said. “We have 7,107 brand new donors, and 76 new major donors.”
Patterson, who has a background in successful fundraising, said it’s a concerted effort between Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, Republican California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, and Patterson.
“When you give money to the CAGOP it doesn’t go anywhere else,” Patterson added.
Patterson was criticized for being a moderate Party operative during her campaign for CAGOP Chairwoman. Critics lambasted her as a party insider, and for her role as Executive Director of the California Trailblazers. She and the CA Trailblazers brought in new donors and helped cultivate new candidates – but not necessarily the candidates that the Conservative wing of the party wanted, despite that their alumni is ideologically diverse.
Prior to Patterson’s election, the CAGOP had not successfully brought in more Conservative members under previous leaders. Party leaders and the Trailblazers did succeed at bringing in more moderate Republican voters and candidates, which has been a bone of contention for nearly a decade. However, by addressing and acknowledging that there is ideological diversity within the CAGOP, the Trailblazers, modeled after the successful national Young Guns program, attracted a successful array of candidates. Many of these recruits are currently elected State Assembly members and Senators.
Now Patterson wants every person who identifies as Republican to feel welcome in the party. “There are too few of us for us to try and push people out in one direction or the other,” Patterson said after her election. Many credit Patterson with getting the charters approved within the CAGOP of the Log Cabin Republicans and the California Impact Republicans.
Patterson says that many Latino voters, black voters, and other minorities vote Democrat “because Democrats show up.” She is showing up. Since being elected, she’s traveled 33,ooo miles, taken 44 flights, been to 119 finance meetings, met with 45 different organizations and businesses, and attended 10 board meetings. Recently, Patterson and Congressional Candidate Carl DeMaio attended “Friends Day at the Farm” in Modesto, where a local farmer holds an annual event for employees and their families. “Carl and I went to the event where there were 2,000 people. We talked about the issues important to these people,” Patterson said. “We need to talk to them more.”
CAGOP Tactical Side
Patterson said the CAGOP had not done much if any voter registration in far too long. “It was not working,” she said. “We put out a RFP for the best voter registrations ideas from local areas around the state.” Patterson said they’ve focused on all of the “miscategorized” decline-to-State voters who did not know they were reregistered as DTS. “We are bringing them our messaging, and bringing them over,” Patterson said.
Patterson said the CAGOP sent out 50,000 emails in August of 2018, and 1.3 million in August 2019 and 3.5 million in September 2019. “We’ve doubled our email list since I was elected six months ago.”
Another issue is making precincts smaller. “You need to know your team leader,” Patterson said. “Ideally, it’s your neighbor who you already talk politics with.”
While Patterson and the CAGOP are helping state and Assembly races, she said they are also focused closely on gaining back the Congressional seats lost in 2018. “The way California can be of most help to the President is to take back the House in 2020,” she said. “In California, we are building up Republican caucuses and setting the table for 2022 and the Governor’s race.”
Two Congressional races in California are getting a lot of attention. “David Valadeo is running again in the 21st District and raised $350,000 at one event,” Patterson said. “The excitement is there.” But she notes, that in just Kings County alone which Valadeo represented in Congress before he lost in 2018, 1,000 Republicans didn’t vote in 2018, who did vote in 2016. “This is what we are focused on.” Valadeo lost to Democrat T.J. Cox in 2018.
“Michelle Park Steele already represents 66 percent of the district as County Supervisor,” Patterson said. Steele is running for California’s 48th District, currently held by Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA). The seat, lost to Rouda by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher three days after the election due to ballot harvesting, is an issue Patterson is acutely aware of and is working with county parties on. “We are doing things differently on the ground,” she said.
It is evident Patterson’s CAGOP messaging is resonating. “There is an enormous amount of hope and excitement, and just the right amount of ‘pissedoffness,'” Patterson said. “Californians are fed up and they know it is all because of one-party rule in Sacramento.”