Despite its losses in the November election, the San Diego County GOP should serve as a statewide model for a “Republican Renaissance” in the 2014 elections.
So says Jim Brulte, a former assemblyman and state senator from San Bernardino County who formally announced Monday night that he was running for state GOP chairman.
“Our party is right,” Brulte told 220 people at a meeting of the county Republican Party at the Rancho Bernardo Inn.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Republican principles,” he said in a 14-minute talk. “We just need to get back to the basics of trying to win elections.”
He praised county GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric as “one of the best in the state” and called the San Diego County GOP “the gold standard” for party operations.
He went on to say: “The California Republican Party has to be as good and capable and competent and excellent and outstanding as the San Diego County party.”
But with a sense of humor, Brulte noted his status as a San Diego Chargers season-ticket holder, and confessed: “Like the Republican Party, the Chargers didn’t have a very good year.”
He vowed the Bolts had better days ahead—as would the state GOP.
Brulte made no suggestions on how to reframe Republican policies, saying others—such as state Sens. Joel Anderson of East County and Mark Wyland of North County (who attended the meeting)—could explain “the issues.”
His only hint that the party needed to improve diversity was saying: “The table will be big enough for anyone who wants to sit at it and pull in the same direction.”
Brulte said: “I want to be the most boring chairman in the history of the California Republican Party. I want to be the nuts-and-bolts chairman that helps begin the process of bringing back the Republican Party and a two-party state in California.”
With a supermajority in both houses in Sacramento, Democrats essentially control the Statehouse as “one-party rule,” several speakers said Monday night.
“The idea of California with a one-party state is not good for Republicans, and it’s not good for Democrats or independents,” said San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who served with Brulte in the Assembly in the 1990s.
“You need to have that balance. You need to have that debate.”
For Brulte’s part, the path to GOP success lies in launching a statewide party fundraising operation, growing the grassroots and recruiting more candidates.
“For too long,” he said, “the California Republican Party has been reliant on members of the Legislature, on Republican governors” and wealthy GOP candidates for governor to share funds with other Republican candidates.
Brulte, 56, then offered some tough love.
“The party that says welfare should not be a permanent state has become a welfare recipient,” he said, noting the lack of a fundraising arm. “That’s why the California Republican Party is in debt today,” reportedly as much as $500,000.
“We ought to be a help to candidates, not the other way around,” he said.
The second step?
“You can’t build the party from the top down,” Brulte said in the Bernardo Ballroom, where dozens stood the entire 90-minute meeting. “You have to build a party from the bottom up—and that means re-invigorating the grassroots.”
Third, he said, is recruiting candidates from “every neighborhood in California.”
Repeating the formulation for emphasis, Brulte said: “It is axiomatic that in a neighborhood election, the candidate who most looks like, sounds like and has the shared values and the shared experiences of the majority of people in the neighborhood tends to win.”
He would be a volunteer chairman while retaining his day job with California Strategies, a consulting and media relations firm.
“I have to eat,” he said with a smile.
The former GOP Assembly leader warned that “when it comes to raising taxes, Democrats are pretty insatiable. ... There are scores of taxes the Democrats are just waiting to raise.”
Returning to football analogies, Brulte said the party just needed to get back to basics as Vince Lombardi said—blocking and tackling—lest the GOP end up like Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers “on his back.”
“The Republican Party has to do the block and tackling,” he said. “We need to show our heart. I think 2014 is the year we begin the Republican Renaissance and it’s the year we begin to take back California.”