By Christopher Cadelago
Published: Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 – 12:00 am

Four years ago, Kamala Harris narrowly defeated Steve Cooley to become California attorney general, clinching a Democratic sweep in all eight statewide offices.

Fewer than 75,000 votes out of roughly 8.8 million cast separated the two candidates.

Just five months ahead of the primary election this year, Republicans have yet to even field a candidate against Harris.

The lack of competition for the state’s top law-enforcement post and other down-ticket contests, political consultants of both major parties say, underscores the party’s shallow bench and tarnished standing as it copes with the state’s rapidly shifting demographics.

With spring filing deadlines approaching, those closely monitoring statewide campaigns also see gaps for the GOP in the upcoming contests for lieutenant governor, treasurer and controller.

Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party, has spent the last week warning that the party risks a drubbing up and down the 2014 ballot.

“This is a real challenge in that we are two steps away from a nightmare scenario where the statewide ticket appears so weak that some Republicans simply give up and throw in with Jerry Brown, creating chaos for Republicans running in competitive seats around the state,” Nehring said.

In the last election alone, California Republicans surrendered supermajority control of the state Legislature, lost decisive congressional races and saw their voting ranks drop below 30 percent statewide.

“Their problem is that they don’t just lack a deep bench, their entire arena is empty,” said Jason Kinney, a Democratic political consultant. “California Republicans just don’t have anybody around who can move the needle. They’ve got to rebuild from the ground up, which is going to be a long-term play, and in the short term that’s going to hurt them.”

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