Repub­li­cans mak­ing moves on 2018 Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor’s race

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Page Two - By Seema Me­hta and Phil Wil­lon

LOS AN­GE­LES—The GOP may be in dire straits in Cal­i­for­nia, but a flurry of re­cent moves sug­gests the party of Ron­ald Rea­gan and Richard Nixon is not will­ing to aban­don the 2018 gu­ber­na­to­rial race, as it did four years ago.

The big ques­tion is if the party will be able to mar­shal enough sup­port be­hind a Repub­li­can can­di­date for gov­er­nor and avoid a re­peat of last fall’s Se­nate cam­paign, which, thanks to the top-two pri­mary, was fought be­tween two Demo­cratic can­di­dates.

Sev­eral Repub­li­cans are in the mix. They in­clude con­ser­va­tive Orange County Assem­bly­man Travis Allen and Rancho Santa Fe ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist John Cox. Spec­u­la­tion is mount­ing that for­mer state Assem­bly­man David Hadley plans to an­nounce a run. There also are fu­ri­ous ef­forts to re­cruit San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer into the race, be­cause he is viewed as the strong­est pos­si­ble con­tender.

“It is ex­cit­ing,” said Shawn Steel, a Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­ber from Orange County. He said the GOP could ex­ploit what he calls Demo­cratic over­reach in Sacra­mento, in­clud­ing the pas­sage of an un­pop­u­lar new gas tax. That plus grow­ing alarm over qual­ity of life is­sues in Cal­i­for­nia could give Repub­li­cans an open­ing among vot­ers who have typ­i­cally not sup­ported his party’s can­di­dates, he said. “I’m not count­ing on any­thing as be­ing cer­tain in pol­i­tics, but I never ex­pected (Pres­i­dent) Trump to win, for good­ness sakes, and was de­lighted when he up­set all the pun­dits.”

A vi­able Repub­li­can top-ofthe-ticket can­di­date could be cru­cial to driv­ing GOP vot­ers to the polls in seven Cal­i­for­nia House races that are ex­pected to be bat­tle­grounds in the 2018 midterms.

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is con­cerned about next year’s turnout, and has been work­ing hard try­ing to con­vince Faulconer to en­ter the race and show him he has a path to vic­tory, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple fa­mil­iar with McCarthy’s ef­forts who were not autho­rized to dis­cuss them.

Party Chair­man Jim Brulte has made at least one per­sonal ap­peal to the mayor dur­ing a face-to-face visit to San Diego.

On pa­per, the ef­forts make sense — Faulconer is the type of Repub­li­can that po­lit­i­cal ob­servers be­lieve has the best shot of win­ning statewide of­fice in Cal­i­for­nia. He’s a fis­cal con­ser­va­tive and so­cial mod­er­ate who is not viewed as an ide­o­logue. He has dis­tanced him­self from Trump. He’s also the only GOP mayor lead­ing one of the na­tion’s 10 largest cities, and was elected twice de­spite Democrats’ six­point voter regis­tra­tion edge in San Diego, ev­i­dence of his cross­over ap­peal.

GOP strate­gists fa­mil­iar with his think­ing say he is now weigh­ing en­ter­ing the race, even though he pre­vi­ously said he had no in­ten­tion of run­ning. Faulconer’s spokes­peo­ple did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Af­ter the can­di­date co­nun­drum, there is the ques­tion of a GOP path to vic­tory in a state were Democrats dom­i­nate.

Democrats un­suc­cess­fully tried to use an anti-Trump mes­sage in four re­cent spe­cial con­gres­sional elec­tions across the coun­try. But Repub­li­cans had stronger ad­van­tages in those dis­tricts. In Cal­i­for­nia, Trump was trounced by Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton by more than 4.2 mil­lion votes, a re­flec­tion of the party’s dom­i­na­tion of state pol­i­tics.


San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer gives his State of the City Ad­dress at the Bal­boa The­ater in San Diego on Jan­uary 12.

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