SACRAMENTO, Calif. - It is a tough time to be a Republican in California. There are no Republicans holding statewide office right now, they are a super minority in the state legislature, and of the 55 members of Congress from California, only seven are Republicans.
This weekend the party was meeting in Sacramento to choose their new leader. All the candidates were promising a new future.
"I'm leaving tomorrow -- and you all want to make sure that I'm out the door," said former California Republican party chair Jim Brulte.
Sunday a new leader of the party was elected. Jessica Patterson has been helping Republicans get elected at the local level for years and says the party should embrace anyone who wants to be a Republican.
Other candidates for the position included a former candidate for Governor, Travis Allen. He said, "We all believe that California Republicans must fight to win again in California."
Steve Frank. another one of the candidates is a longtime political consultant who said it is all about signing up new voters. "We need to stop the harvesting of absentee ballots," he said, "because there's no chain of custody when the ballots are harvested. We need to be aggressive and bold party to stand up to the Democrats."
Patterson received just over half of the votes from the 1,200 delegates but says she hopes to help Republicans focus on California issues instead of the President's issues.
"Every single day they are trying to take away our freedom, and our liberty -- and they are trying to tax everything that is out there," she said.
UPDATE 3:13 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 - This version was issued by the AP to correct that Patterson received just over half of the votes from 1,200 delegates, not support from more than 1,200 delegates
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Hurting California Republicans chose a party insider Sunday to lead them forward after their party suffered stinging defeats in 2018, rejecting two candidates backed by activists who favored a stronger embrace of President Donald Trump.
The California Republican Party's delegates had to decide where the party would go next with its leadership, and a majority of about 1,200 delegates chose Jessica Patterson, who previously headed a Republican candidate recruitment and training program.
Trump's election fueled what was already a downward slide for California's Republicans, who have not won statewide office since 2006 and rank as third party status in voter registration behind Democrats and independents.
The 2018 election pushed the party further toward the brink of extinction in the nation's most populous state, with Democrats flipping seven U.S. House seats once considered GOP strongholds and Republicans holding less than a quarter of state legislative seats.
Patterson argued bringing the Republican message into new communities would be the key to success and said she would push candidates to focus on California issues rather than the president's message.
Her two rivals, former state Assemblyman Travis Allen and party activist Steve Frank, said energizing the party base that loves Trump was the key to success. Both are strident backers of the president.
But Patterson had the backing of most elected officials, including top Trump supporters like U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. She was viewed as the candidate better prepared to raise money and do the grunt work required of a chair.
"Let's serve notice to the Democrats in California that we are back and we are ready to deliver on the Republican comeback," Patterson said after winning. "Then let's dig in and make it happen."
Her opponents argued she represents more of the same leadership that led the party into decline. Both charged the state party has not advocated for strong conservative values and shied away from full-throated Trump support. Allen came in second and Frank placed third.
"California Republicans are every bit as Republican as Republicans across the country," Allen said in an interview last week. "It's about time we have a Republican party that stands for our values, our ideals and supports our Republican president."
After the vote, Allen said only that he hopes "the Republican party starts fighting again for the good of all Californians."
Patterson said prior to the election she supports Trump. Beyond McCarthy, she had the backing of key Trump supporters such as U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes and the state's two Republican National Committee members.
But some of Trump's most fervent California supporters were disappointed by the outcome. Stephanie Sporcich, a teacher, said she got involved with the state party because of Trump's election. She cast her vote for Allen, and saw the chairmanship race as a battle between the grassroots and the establishment.
"We're the ones that are the strongest Trump supporters with Trump values," she said, adding she and other new activists have already successfully infiltrated the party structure and will keep working to do so.
But Elizabeth Patock, another teacher, liked Patterson's focused on bringing "non-traditional Republicans" into the party. Patock did not vote for Trump and said she dislikes how ugly national politics have become.
She said Patterson "has a positive message."
Patterson is the first Latina to lead the state party. She did not make her personal heritage a major piece of her campaign, but said the party needs to use "new messengers."
California Republicans have struggled to appeal to the state's growing Latino and Hispanic population because of the party's position on immigration, among other things. Patterson did not provide specifics Sunday on how she will deal with that issue.
As a gesture of goodwill, she named Frank and Allen as co-chairs of a voter registration committee. Both had highlighted the party's outsourcing of voter registration activities as a major flaw. And she called for unity among California Republicans.
"Our success will be a team effort, no egos, no personal agenda, no drama," she said. "We're going to be about one thing: Winning."
This version corrects that Patterson received just over half of the votes from 1,200 delegates, not support from more than 1,200 delegates.
Updated 12:07 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 - By KATHLEEN RONAYNE, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The California Republican Party on Sunday selected a new leader focused on nuts-and-bolts organizing and raising money over two rivals who favored a more stronger embrace of President Donald Trump.
Jessica Patterson, who previously led a candidate recruitment and training program, won support from just more than 1,200 of the party's most dedicated backers to win the chairmanship.
She'll now be tasked with leading the party into 2020 after stinging defeats in November 2018. The party now holds just seven of the state's 53 U.S. House seats and less than a quarter of all seats in the state Legislature.
"Today we are starting the next chapter in our party's history," Patterson said. "Our success will be a team effort, no egos, no personal agenda, no drama. We're going to be about one thing: Winning."
The vote for chair was the highlight of a three-day convention that featured speeches from prominent Republicans, tables of Trump-themed memorabilia and debates over how to best lead the party forward. Patterson, the first Latina to hold the chairmanship, took over immediately following the vote.
The convention was being held just blocks from the Democrat-dominated state Capitol, a clear reminder of how much the Republican Party's power has diminished in Sacramento.
Patterson defeated Travis Allen, a former state lawmaker and unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2018, and Steve Frank, a longtime party activist. She announced they'll lead a new task force on voter registration, an issue both discussed in their campaigns.
The race had focused on who has the superior organization and fundraising skills needed to run the party and who is the strongest backer of President Donald Trump.
Allen and Frank painted themselves as candidates with fingers on the pulse of the party's grassroots. They said consultants and members of the so-called establishment have led the party into decline.
Patterson, meanwhile, cast herself as the candidate with the relationships and know-how to raise money and bring the party's message into new corners of the deeply Democratic state.
Her backers said she was far better poised to do the grunt work necessary of being party chair, such as maintaining relationships with donors.
"I think Jessica can do the job I don't think the other two can," said state Assemblyman Chad Mayes, who is part of the party's "Never Trump" wing. "The role of the chair is not to give big soaring speeches to adoring crowds. The role of the chair is to do the hard work."
Although her opponents painted her as the candidate of the party's "Never Trump" wing, Patterson also had the backing of some of Trump's top California supporters, including two Republican National Committee members and U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The California Republican Party is meeting to choose a new chair to lead it into the 2020 election.
More than 1,500 Republicans have gathered in Sacramento this weekend for a three-day convention following stinging losses in 2018. The party holds less than a quarter of state legislative seats and just seven of 53 U.S. House seats.
Delegates are choosing Sunday between three chair candidates. They are Jessica Patterson, a party organizer; Travis Allen, a former state lawmaker; and Steve Frank, a longtime activist.
Allen says engaging the GOP's grassroots and strongly supporting President Donald Trump are keys to the party's success.
Patterson says she is best poised to raise money and bring the party's message to new voters.
Frank says his long involvement with the party is an asset.
(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press)