Jim Brulte

Former Senator Jim Brulte (File photo)

Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/14/2013 11:28:32 AM PST

Former Inland Empire legislator Jim Brulte announced Monday that he is running to lead the California Republican Party, a position party insiders say he’ll likely win but that leaves plenty of work ahead of him.

Brulte made the confirmation by phone Monday, following an endorsement by Steve Baric, the state party’s vice chairman.

Republican insiders traditionally fight to become vice chairman, a position that leads almost automatically to becoming chairman, Brulte said.

“Baric was one of a number of people who encouraged me to run for chair – I’ve always said, if he wants to run for chair, it’s his,” Brulte said. “Tonight begins about a one-month series of … (speeches) delivering my message of what I think the party needs.”

Brulte served in the state Legislature for 14 years before leaving in 2004 as Senate Republican Leader, and since then has been a principal partner of public affairs firm California Strategies.

He said he saw the party chairman’s role as logistical rather than policy-oriented.

“I’m not running to be the policy spokesman for Republicans,” he said. “I had that job when I was in the Assembly and the Senate. I want to be the grassroots nuts-and-bolts guy, doing the hard work of rebuilding the state party. We have to rebuild the Republican Party from the ground up, because the future success of California demands a healthy two-party system.”

Republicans have been battered in recent California elections, with fewer than 30 percent of state voters registred as Republicans, no statewide positions held by Republicans and Democrats in 2012 seizing a two-thirds majority – large enough to raise taxes without any Republican support.

Much of that is a matter of the message not getting out, said Brulte, and can be solved with three priorities that he plans to work on simultaneously:

Rebuilding finances

The party must be rebuild its financial base with more small, medium and large donors, he said.

“The California Republican Party is broke, financially broke,” said Brulte, whose position as chairman will be unpaid. “It has three full-time staffers, two of whom don’t even work in an office.”

Rebuilding the grassroots

Gathering support among ordinary residents in the state must be re-emphasized, Brulte said.

That’s particularly true, he said, in races where the Republican incumbent will likely face a serious challenge – including Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga, whose district includes Brulte’s Fontana home – and where Democratic incumbents are vulnerable.

Recruiting candidates

“We have to go into every community in California and recruit candidates, train candidates and – to the extent possible – provide technical support for candidates,” he said.

Baric said by phone Monday that he was declining the post because he was too busy as a father, attorney and Rancho Santa Margarita councilman.

“I think he’s going to do a great job,” Baric said. “He’s got a lot of experience, he’s well known in the fundraising community, and he has a demonstrated ability to win.”

Influential conservative blogger Jon Fleischman of FlashReport said last week that all segments of the party seem to have united around Brulte, and party spokesman Mark Standriff said Monday no one else had announced their candidacy for the March 3 election, although many were campaigning for vice chairman.

“The chairman is considered to be the leader of the state party and all its apparatuses,” Standriff said, but party bylaws require that the chairmanship rotate between Northern and Southern California. “The next chairman will be expected to make sure Southern California gets represented.”

Baric said Brulte has a difficult job ahead of him, but said Democrats’ statewide dominance presents an opportunity.

“The great thing about it is, quite frankly, the Democrats own every level of government, and I don’t think anyone would say they’re not running the state into the ground,” Baric said. “At some point, we’re going to get the chance to say we’re able to solve the systemic problems the state faces.”

Democratic spokesman Tenoch Flores was skeptical of that Brulte’s actions could change voters’ minds.

“It’s not just the `nuts and bolts,’ it’s the policy, it’s the fact that Republicans were given a chance to work hand-in-hand with Gov. (Jerry) Brown when he came into office and … were very comfortable being the party of `no,”‘ Flores said. “They’ve got problems top to bottom: organization, message, policy – many of their ideas are out of date and out of touch.”

But Flores had guarded praise for Brulte himself.

“He’s certainly someone who was respected by his colleagues in the Legislature, and he’s taken this difficult job. He’s as able as anyone.”

Read more: http://www.sbsun.com/ci_22370825/jim-brulte-run-republican-party-chairman#ixzz2I4AzYrzA