California Republicans Get Ready for National Convention

California Republicans head to St. Paul, Minnesota this weekend for their national convention. Some feel the excitement of first-time delegates; others harbor deep questions about the future of their party. KPCC's Frank Stoltze reports.

Frank Stoltze: Eighteen years ago Miryam Mora moved to Los Angeles from Mexico with her parents. She was eight years old. This year, she's a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

Miryam Mora: This is my first convention, my first time voting, yes. I'm just very proud of this country and very proud of McCain. I'm very proud to be a part of this democracy process.

Stoltze: Mora used to be a Democrat. Then she went to work for Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, also a Democrat. Mora realized she liked Republicans better – in part because they talked more about self-reliance than dependence on government programs. It's an ethic she sees in Arizona Senator John McCain too. One McCain story in particular impresses her.

Mora: He had the opportunity to go home early when he was a prisoner of war and instead he chose to give his position to someone that had been there before him and that was Everett Alvarez, a Mexican-American.

Stoltze: California bloggers are also flocking to St. Paul. Scott Graves runs Red County, a conservative blog based in Orange County.

Scott Graves: I think that we are at a crossroads. You have the Republicans trying to really understand what it is that they stand for. Do they need to be going farther right? Do they need to be going more toward the middle?

Stoltze: Graves derides the deficit spending of the Bush Administration, and he worries that the party's emphasis on an anti-abortion anti-gay "values" agenda has hurt it.

Graves: I'm not asking Republican politicians to be wishy-washy, but they do need to find a way to communicate on these issues that is not offensive, in a way that appeals to the broadest possible spectrum of folks.

Stoltze: Doug Kmiec's felt the sting of the political-religious divide. The Pepperdine University law professor is a longtime Republican who was an assistant attorney general under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In March, Kmiec announced he's supporting Barack Obama for president.

Doug Kmiec: After I endorsed Senator Obama, I unfortunately was denied communion at a Catholic Mass in Southern California – denounced from the pulpit even.

Stoltze: Kmiec sees in Obama someone who'll narrow the divide. He still considers himself a Republican, but he can't support McCain.

Kmiec: I think that Senator McCain's time has passed. I thought he was a credible candidate in the year 2000 but the problems of 2008 are different than the problems of 2000. I think there's a concern about age. I also think there is a concern about a continuation of the set of perspectives and policies from the present administration that have not be true to Republican values.

Stoltze: It's one of the central challenges facing Republicans as they gather for their national convention: how to separate themselves from one of the most unpopular presidents in history. Even as a first-time delegate, Miryam Mora knows that Bush brings a lot of baggage to the party's fight for the presidency this year.

Mora: We can't put too much blame on President Bush. We have to realize that the laws are made and created by the Democrats and so we have to hold our representatives accountable, not just the president, for the situation that we're in.

Stoltze: Asked who she'd like most to meet in St. Paul, Mora replied that it wouldn't be the president, but the presumptive Republican nominee.

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