Jim Brulte

Sen. Jim Brulte, left, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger share a laugh after signing a budget compromise bill in 2003. (Los Angeles Times)

By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
February 5, 2013

SACRAMENTO — Desperate to return to relevance, the battered California Republican Party is looking for salvation in a shrewd dealmaker and prolific fundraiser once known for advancing his party’s interests in a Capitol dominated by Democrats.

Jim Brulte, a former Senate and Assembly minority leader forced from the Legislature by term limits in 2004, is the odds-on favorite to be chosen state GOP leader at the party’s convention here next month.

His plans for a rebirth focus, at the moment, on shoring up the basics: the fundraising operation, get-out-the-vote apparatus, data analysis capabilities and recruitment efforts. All have been ailing, leaving the GOP bent with debt and precipitating its increasingly poor performance at the polls.

“I want to be the most boring Republican Party chair in history,” Brulte, who represented parts of the Inland Empire, said in an interview. “That means being in the trenches, doing the nuts and bolts. It’s not very glamorous, and it’s not very exciting, but it’s unbelievably important.”

The California Republican Party has not been so weak in decades. With statewide registration below 30% (Democrats have 43.7%), it went into free fall last November, losing ground in state legislative and congressional contests.

The GOP ceded coveted supermajorities to Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly, shutting themselves out of deal-making in the Capitol. And no Republicans were elected to statewide posts in 2010, when those offices were last open.

Young people, Latinos and other minorities who make up an increasing share of the electorate have tended not to be drawn to the party. Opinion polls show that those voters support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and higher taxes to pay for certain government services. But the ideologues who control the party have resisted both.

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