By Carla Marinucci
12/22/16 – 06:00 AM EST
SAN FRANCISCO — Jim Brulte, the current chair of the California Republican Party, once served as a high-profile backer of National Popular Vote, a movement that supports the elimination of the Electoral College.
But that was five years ago. Now, after Donald Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, Democrats like California U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer are calling for Electoral College reform while many Republicans have gone silent on the issue.
Indeed, Brulte’s once-robust endorsement of reform, published as a forward in the National Popular Vote’s book-length plan, “Every Vote Equal,” has been scrubbed from the Internet, including from the nonprofit organization’s website.
Brulte told POLITICO California that in his current role as state chair, he can take no positions on issues “other than those in the GOP platform.”
The issue may be especially sticky for Brulte as he seeks re-election to the top party post in February, having been endorsed this week by the state campaign chairs for Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, as well as state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner.
But even in the wake of Trump’s victory, some California Republicans, like former state senator Ray Haynes, are forging ahead with their calls for reform, arguing that the National Popular Vote effort still is not only viable but critically important for the GOP in non-battleground states like California.
Haynes told POLITICO California in an interview Wednesday that Trump’s victory was lucky, even “a fluke,’’ and that the popular vote could very well spell the winning difference for the future Republican presidential candidates.
California passed legislation backing the National Popular Vote effort in 2011, co-sponsored by Republicans Mimi Walters, then a state senator, and Assemblyman Bruce Nestande. In the legislation, the state officials agreed, through a compact, to award all of California’s 55 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.
So far, 10 states, all solidly blue — including New York, Washington, Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia, representing 165 electoral votes — have passed measures proposed by National Popular Vote. But the individual state laws won’t go into effect until states representing 270 electoral votes — the number needed to elect a president — agree to the compact.
The group is based in Silicon Valley and was founded by Stanford professor John Koza.
Haynes says five red states were ready to sign on before the 2016 election, but they may have to be revisited as Republicans pull back on their support for Electoral College reform in the wake of Trump’s victory.
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