California sent two Republican presidents to the White House this century, but in recent years, the party of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan has seen a major decline in the Golden State.
Republicans have shrunk to just 30 percent of the state’s votership. No Republican holds statewide office, and to make matters worse, several prominent Republicans have recently deserted for independent status.
In short, the GOP is in danger of becoming a third party in California.
Moderates are key
The Republican hard-line stance on social issues, such as abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration, has driven social moderates out of the fold. And California’s budget woes have led to strife as well; Assemblyman Brian Nestande recently stepped down from his post as Republican Caucus Chair after casting his vote with the Democrats on tax reform.
But talking to the Chairman of the California Republican Party, Tom Del Beccaro, it’s clear he remains optimistic. He told AirTalk that predictions the Republican Party would lose multiple seats to Democrats this election cycle would not come to fruition.
“You’re going to find we’re in an even match with [Democrats], maybe gain a seat, maybe tie, or maybe lose one seat,” Del Beccaro said. “We’re going to gain assembly seats, Jerry Brown’s tax increase will fail, and Prop 32 will pass. In reality, the party and its ideals are doing well. … We’re going to have a good year in California.”
But how will the party, which is often seen as out of touch, fare when it comes to communities of color, women, and college-age voters?
Reaching the Asian-American community
Del Beccaro has been working with people like Korean-American Michelle Park Steel — the vice chairman of the Board of Equalization and a Romney pledgee — to reach out to the Asian American community.
Steel, who is an elected official herself, says the Republican Party needs to focus on mobilization at the community level where there is a surprising number of up-and-coming Republican Asian Americans. In the past, elected Asian American officials have overwhelmingly been Democrats.
The Republican Party, Steel explained were weak in areas of immigration, which affects large pockets of the Asian American community. Their messages needed to become more “detail oriented,” she said.
“Our message to each community has to be different, especially with Asian Americans. The polls came out [and showed Asian Americans] think family comes first, and … education is the most important thing for their lives and their children,” Steel said. “[The Republican Party] is not really relaying those messages to each community.”
For the Republican Party to make waves in California, they need to better relay their message and tap into voting blocks that have historically gone Democratic. For one thing, the Republican Party needs to appeal to the over 500,000 Asian American business owners in California, Steel explained.
Those voters want less regulation and lower taxes, which the Republican Party supports.
Del Beccaro says he believes his party’s ideals will appeal to many voters, especially those who feel disenfranchised or neglected by the government in times of economic recession, such as unemployed and underemployed graduates and small business owners.
“We need to have more consistent communication,” he said. “[Asian Americans are] very family oriented and small business minded. The policies in Sacramento are hurting them. The EPA … is hurting them. We’re the ones trying to help them.”
For now Del Beccaro, Steel, and others are focusing on the ground — they’re looking for young Republican talent and shaping them into political contenders for the national stage.
“There are more locally elected Republicans in California than Democrats. The question is, how do we get it to the next level?” Del Beccaro said. “The Democrats in the past perhaps had a leg up because they’ve been more engaged.”
The solution for the party lies in finding new tactics when addressing ever-changing, continually diversifying communities in California.
“Republicans ... have got to provide practical solutions to voters and they have to talk to more voters,” Del Becarro said. “That’s the key to the return.”
What does this mean for the party? Can Republican leaders turn things around? Or is California lost to the GOP forever?
Tom Del Beccaro, Chairman, California Republican Party
Michelle Park Steel, California Delegate Pledged to Mitt Romney; Vice Chairman, Board of Equalization