ANAHEIM, Calif. – California Republicans on Saturday quickly shut down a proposal that would have cut opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage from their platform, disappointing centrist members who had hoped a more moderate approach will increase their chances of success in a state where they are consistently lagging behind.
The measure, voted on at the party’s fall convention, comes as Republicans prepare for an election cycle in which they must protect members in purple districts or risk losing control of the House and Kevin McCarthy as speaker.
Charles Moran, chairman of the LGBTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, said the decision would “damage the Republican Party in California.”
“They won’t let us compete,” Moran said of the conservative members. “They want to fight about battles that the Supreme Court and the Legislature are already fighting.”
The draft put forth by Moran and others would also shrink the platform from 14 pages to four and focus on what supporters say are issues championed by California Republicans — such as homelessness. and public safety.
After the drafting committee gave first-round approval to the changes earlier this summer, conservative delegates launched a counter-campaign, submitting more than 100 amendments ahead of this weekend’s convention and sent out email blasts asking members to reject “watered down” principals. .
The vote on Saturday, which was closed to the press, came quickly and without any debate on the draft or changes, according to the members present. After the committee voted to keep the existing platform, delegates cheered audibly in the hallway, and exited the committee with high-fives and hugs.
Among those who voted to reject the more moderate platform was Fred Whitaker, chair of the Republican Party in Orange County, where three GOP candidates face tight races next year. They include Reps. Michelle Steel and Young Kim, and former state legislator Scott Baugh, who is running in the purple district of Democratic Rep. Katie Porter then almost lost in 2022.
When asked if candidates need to moderate themselves to win Orange County districts, Whitaker said “absolutely not.”
“We won with Michelle Steel and Young Kim in 2020, a challenging election cycle for Republicans,” he said, noting that Kim and Steel were conservative on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage and won still in Democratic-leaning districts.
“Not every candidate is going to believe 100 percent of everything in the platform,” Whitaker added. “The candidate will decide for themselves what issues they will focus on for their campaign to connect with voters.”
The tension over the platform changes underscores the party’s ongoing struggle to gain power in deep blue California. Centrist members argue that following culture war issues is an unnecessary distraction that hangs too tightly around the necks of Republican candidates running in liberal districts.
“When you have an R next to your name, (voters) can’t imagine that you’re actually interested in creating a reasonable two-party system,” said Ted Stroll, a Republican running in Assembly District 25. which includes San Jose and is represented by progressive Democrat Ash Kalra.
“Not everyone is a bunch of people who think that Covid is a hoax, that Biden lost, that the military is really in charge, that lizards rule from underground,” Stroll said of the party in Republican. “Fools don’t always have to prevail.”
The party’s leadership, including Chair Jessica Millan Patterson, has avoided publicly taking sides in the fight.
Harmeet Dhillon, the RNC’s committee member for California, has been one of those leading the charge against the platform changes, which he called a “pale, pastel and filtered version” of party leaders.
The platform wasn’t meant to appeal to all voters, Dhillon argued, and changing it could alienate loyal party soldiers who would give their time to knocking on doors, collecting ballots. and voter registration.
“We need to focus on drawing differences with the left … not stoking divisions within our base,” Dhillon said in a statement.