GOP

By MARTIN WISCKOL
COLUMNIST
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
mwisckol@ocregister.com

The buzz is growing about the prospects of former state Senate GOP leader Jim Brulte becoming the next chairman of the struggling California Republican Party.

“He has no opposition, and he wants it,” said former CRP Chairman Shawn Steel. “He’s been meeting with people to talk about it. He’s the guy, probably more than anyone else in California, who can raise money for the party and at the same time speaks conservatism. And he speaks above the bickering of different factions.”

Brulte has not made public comments about the job, which state party Central Committee members will fill at their March convention. Incumbent Chairman Tom del Beccaro is not seeking re-election.

The state GOP this year fell below a 30 percent share of registered voters. It is perpetually short on cash, holds no statewide offices, and is particularly weak among the growing Latino and Asian electorates.

Brulte spent 14 years in the state Legislature, serving as leader in both chambers. The Rancho Cucamonga consultant is known, respected and affable. And he’s advocated more minority involvement in the party since at least 1998.

Rancho Santa Margarita attorney Steve Baric is vice chairman of the party and would be a likely candidate for the top spot but is expected to stand aside if Brulte runs. The two are friendly and share the view that the party needs to rise above infighting if it’s to return to relevancy in the state.

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