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GOP convention opens with questions about party's future

March 01, 2013|By Seema Mehta
  • Former Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga talks with delegates at the California Republican Party convention, from left, Adele Harrison, Valarie Skovron, Sharon Mayberry and Jackie Raspler, right, in Sacramento on Friday. Brulte is expected to be elected as the party's new chairman.
Former Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga talks with… (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated…)

SACRAMENTO—As California Republicans gather here Friday for their weekend convention, it’s difficult to recall when the group that produced Ronald Regan was at a lower point. The party hasn’t elected a statewide candidate in seven years. It is awash in debt. GOP voter registration is at a historic low of less than 30%.

“The most important thing the Republican Party has is: I don’t believe we can get any lower, alright, so the only way is up,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy during a luncheon speech, shortly before the start of the convention. Some 1,600 delegates and others are gathering at a downtown hotel this weekend, and the party’s future will be a dominant line of discussion.

But McCarthy, the highest-ranking elected Republican from California, said he was optimistic that Democrats, who took a super-majority in both houses in November and hold every statewide office, would fail to fix the state’s problems.

“A year and a half from now is a perfect opportunity for the Republicans,” he said. “We don’t  own any of this mess.”

But he said the party must be ready. That task will lie squarely at the feet of Jim Brulte, the former state Senate Republican leader who will almost certainly be elected the party's new chairman Sunday. Disparate factions have lined up behind Brulte, who is a well-regarded strategist.

But fractures remain between the party’s moderate and conservative elements, as evident in the agenda for the weekend. Karl  Rove, who recently announced a new effort to help electable candidates in GOP Senate primaries, will speak at Saturday’s luncheon. That evening, conservative writer Ben Shapiro,  who has derided Rove’s effort as “quietly undermining conservatism,” will speak.

Twitter: @LATSeema

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