California Republicans congregated in Sacramento this weekend at its annual party convention.
The key theme: finding a way forward for the GOP in the state.
Democrats have a firm hold here. They hold substantial majorities in both houses of the legislature, and the Republicans don't have a single statewide officeholder.
Republicans have only about a 27 percent share of all registered voters — that's the lowest proportion in more than a decade. But some in the party see a glimmer of hope headed into the 2018 midterm election and beyond. One of them is Assembly GOP leader Chad Mayes.
Mayes spoke Monday with Take Two's A Martinez.
At a dinner party in Sacramento this weekend, Congressman Devin Nunes said that the GOP has a "marketing problem" in California and it must be solved. That's something that's been echoed by party chairman Jim Brulte. Where do you think the GOP has gone wrong?
If you look at what Californians believe about the issues, you know, it's what Republicans believe about the issues. We gotta do more work being able to get our message out and I think we do have a bit of a marketing problem and we need to do a better job.
Which issues are you talking about, Chad?
For my entire life — I'm 39 years old, soon to be 40 — the Democrats have controlled California. It's an absolute fact that there are many people that are hurting in California. We have the highest poverty rate in the nation. We have the highest housing costs in the nation. Our roads are falling apart, our water infrastructure is falling apart, and our education system is failing our kids.
When you look at the poverty rate as a measure, it's obvious that the people that have been running the place have been failing and we're working to address it as Republicans.
The nomination of President Trump has given a lot of hope to Republicans here. GOP Chairman Jim Brulte even said, "I don't know about you, but Donald Trump's just rockin' my socks." President Trump made a lot of inroads with the politically disenfranchised —especially when it came to jobs, poverty, and infrastructure. Do you see California voters who might be independents are even Democrats being moved by the President's policies?
I think we still have to wait and see what happens. What's going on back in Washington DC is one thing; I'm focusing on what's going on here in California.
While I'm hopeful that some of those policies that'll be implemented in the next year or two will be positive for California, what I'm thinking about is 'what are we doing in the California legislature to improve people's lives?'
People in California have been suffering under the rule of Democrats for decades now. We've gotta focus our attention there.
It's worth mentioning, though: Trump's promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act could hurt a lot of the same voters you hope to energize. Republicans have yet to agree on a replacement. Protesters in a number of Republican districts have been very vocal about this in the past few weeks. Could this be the ticking time bomb that could torpedo the GOP's efforts here?
We know that the Affordable Care Act has incredible problems. I've seen them first-hand myself. My hope is that back in Washington DC they will come up with a replacement that will be better.
But until that replacement is agreed upon, can you see how just the thought of taking it away or replacing it could be something that is not in the best interests of the GOP in California?
Don't you think that's one of the things that's frustrating? We tend to place fear in people's minds. In fact, both the extremes in both the parties do this. They incite fear when something happens. Let's not focus on the fear; let's focus on the solution.
Governor Jerry Brown finishes his final term next year. It's a pretty wide-open race on the Democratic side. Some Republicans are hoping that in-fighting in the Democratic party will leave a more open path to victory for the GOP. How do you feel about your chances?
I'm hopeful that we will have a gubernatorial candidate that will step-up — that will be able to work toward solving these big problems. I don't know of anyone yet that [has].
I know on the Democratic side there are four or five gubernatorial candidates that are going to be well-funded that are going to push hard.
I'm still waiting to see who we've got on the Republican side, but I'm hopeful that whoever that is is going to give an aspirational message to California and tell them what California Republicans believe. We'll just wait and see who that's gonna be.
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(Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)