California Republicans fail to unite behind a candidate for governor
The California Republican state convention ended on Sunday with no candidate for governor getting the 60% necessary for a party endorsement. This will make it very difficult for a Republican candidate for governor to appear on the general election ballot in November, due to the state's non-partisan primary.
The top two vote getters in the June primary will face off in November regardless of party. The process favors Democrats, especially in state wide races. This leaves the Republicans in a familiar place - on the outside looking in.
The party's inability to agree on a gubernatorial candidate, as well as no prominent Republican wishing to challenge incumbent Senator Diane Feinstein, probably means that those two key offices will fall to Democrats by default.
The California Republican Party did not agree on an endorsement Sunday in the governor's race, a development that could stifle the chances that GOP voters will coalesce behind a candidate before the June 5 primary election.
Businessman John Cox received 55.3% of the vote, short of the 60% required for the party nod. Assemblyman Travis Allen received 40.5%, while 4.1% voted for no endorsement at the party's convention in San Diego.
That the "no endorsement" line got 40% of the vote highlights the major problem of the state GOP; they are riven with division between conservative true believers who support Donald Trump and moderates like former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Axios reports that Schwarzenegger has launched an organized effort to move the party toward the center. But the conservatives have rejected that effort and it appears doomed almost from the start.
But the stakes are higher this year — if the Republicans fail to launch a candidate to the top of the ticket, Republican voter turnout could be dampened in November, posing a threat to the party's ability to hold on to several congressional seats that are key to the GOP retaining control of Congress.
"It's absolutely necessary that we as a party are united around the top race in the state," Karen Roseberry, a Los Angeles County delegate, said as she unsuccessfully urged the party to reconsider the endorsement vote. "Every down-ticket race is counting on this."
Despite losing out on an endorsement from their party, Cox's and Allen's campaigns both predicted top-two finishes in June to compete against Democratic front-runner Gavin Newsom in the general election.
"As someone who worked hard on this, I'm obviously disappointed," Cox spokesman Matt Shupe said. "However, this does not stall our campaign one bit. We have the resources to move forward and take the fight to the Democrats. Travis Allen has no pathway without this endorsement."
Cox may have the money to run an effective statewide race, but the fact is that Republicans are massively outnumbered by Democrats in the state. Even in GOP bastions like Orange County, a candidate can no longer count on running up large margins to be competitive in a statewide race.
Democrats have gerrymandered congressional and local districts to assure themselves a large majority in the congressional delegation and in Sacramento. This has reduced the GOP in California to near irrelvancy. Certainly a good first step in returning to prominence in the state must be unifying the party. But that goal seems far off as the internecine warfare between the hard right and more moderate right continues.