Jim Brulte

A path above superminority status seem well-lit, but either way, party leader Jim Brulte sees to have a formula for rebuilding the party one voter at a time.

By MATTHEW FLEMING / STAFF WRITER
Published: Aug. 16, 2014 Updated: Aug. 17, 2014 6:45 p.m.

When Jim Brulte ran for California Republican Party chairman, he campaigned on three things: Help maintain the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, eliminate the Democrats’ supermajority in the Assembly and rebuild the party from the ground up.

This was after the California GOP suffered a devastating loss in 2012, earning superminority status in both chambers of the Legislature and thereby losing its ability to block tax increases, slipping further into irrelevance.

Brulte, a former state legislator who served as Republican leader in both chambers, and other party leaders, knew that something needed to happen.

And then, finally, something went right.

Republicans caught a break last summer when Andy Vidak won a Central Valley state Senate seat that had been vacated by a Democrat in a heavily Democratic area, creating a path to remove the party’s supermajority in the Senate.

They got more good news earlier this year when Republican Kevin Faulconer replaced Democrat Bob Filner as mayor of San Diego, also heavily Democratic. Filner retired amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

For party leaders like Brulte and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, the difference was in walking the walk.

“Leaders lead by example,” Brulte said. “So I walked precincts, a number of senators walked precincts, and a number of assembly members walked precincts. And you know what? We had a much larger volunteer organization when voters saw the leaders of the party doing the nuts-and-bolts work.”

Rebuilding the party

The disparity in voter registration is the biggest barrier to Republican victories in California.

“The demography is so much against them right now,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a professor at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. “Look at the difference in registration.”

Both Democrats and Republicans have been declining in terms of voter registration. But for Republicans, the decline has been much worse.

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