By David Siders and Torey Van Oot
Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 – 8:23 am

Following a catastrophic election for the California Republican Party, influential members of the party have recruited a prominent former legislator, Jim Brulte, to lead a comeback.

The former Senate Republican leader has been discussing his interest in the party chairmanship with members of the party since the election a month ago. Brulte is a giant in GOP circles, having helped Republicans in the 1990s win a majority in the state Assembly for the first time in nearly 25 years.

The situation for the California GOP appears far more critical now. They hold no statewide offices, suffered a net loss of four House seats (they hold 15 of 53 in California) and allowed Democrats to achieve a two-thirds majority in the state Legislature for the first time since the 1880s.

Republican voter registration has fallen below 30 percent statewide, and the party is essentially broke.

Brulte, 56, has not discussed the chairmanship publicly. Activists and party leaders with whom he has spoken expect him to be a candidate during the organization’s spring elections. He is widely expected to win.

“His political judgment is superb,” Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, said Wednesday. “I found out about his interest from (House Majority Whip) Kevin McCarthy and told him to sign me up immediately.”

Mike Spence, president of the Conservative Republicans of California, said Brulte told him he talked with fellow partners at his public affairs company, California Strategies LLC, about becoming party chairman.

“I think having someone like Jim Brulte as chair shows we’re not dead in California,” Spence said. “He has a lot of credibility with donors and grass-roots activists and other people. I think it would be a morale boost for the party.”

Jason Kinney, a spokesman for California Strategies, said in an email, “The Republicans here support it and the Democrats oppose it – because the one thing we all agree on is that, if Jim decides to do it, he’ll be extremely effective.”

If he is elected, Brulte will be expected to resurrect the party’s sunken fundraising apparatus and make voter registration gains, if only incrementally.

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