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"It was a splendid population - for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home - you never find that sort of people among pioneers - you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this day - and when she projects a new surprise the grave world smiles as usual and says, "Well, that is California all over."

- - - - Mark Twain (Roughing It)

Monday, March 24, 2014

California GOP Targets Central Valley

California Republicans
Seeking a way back to relevance in the Legislature
(Los Angeles Times)  -  A cherry farmer from the San Joaquin Valley holds the key to California Republicans' hopes of loosening Democrats' grip on the state Legislature.

Andy Vidak, a Republican who owns an orchard in Kings County, stunned both parties last year with an upset victory in a Senate district where Democrats have a 22-point advantage in voter registration. He ran largely on the basics, promising to cure a shortage of both jobs and water in the agricultural district and oppose the costly bullet train proposed to split the Central Valley.

He sidestepped gay marriage and some other divisive issues — while taking a moderate approach to immigration.

With 100 legislative seats on the ballot this year, Republican leaders took notice. They have developed a $13.6-million plan to deprive Democrats of a supermajority in this year's election, and the confidential document, obtained by The Times, singles out Vidak's success as an example of what needs to be done.

"Our message was that common sense has no party lines," Vidak, 48, said in an interview.

He won by breaking from the party platform where it was an ill fit for his predominantly Latino district and focusing on ways in which residents felt let down by the Democratic majority.

"Mostly we listened," Vidak said. "We are all in the same boat. It's all about water and jobs."

His victory in a special election in the 16th Senate District eight months ago offered a ray of hope for a party that has been in a slump for years.

The Republican share of voter registration in California, at 35% a decade ago, has fallen to less than 29%, and no member of the party has held statewide office since 2006. In 2012, Democrats won supermajorities in both legislative houses, the first time one party had done so since 1933, and Republicans found themselves ignored as major policy decisions were made.

"The California Republican Party has been in decline in California for two decades," said Jim Brulte, the state party chairman. "Some Republicans don't want to believe that, but most objective observers know it to be the case."

Republican Senator Anthony Cannella and Vidak were the 
only two Republican Senators to vote last year for a bill granting
wide access to driver's licenses for undocumented workers. 
Both represent Central Valley districts where Democrats have
a double-digit edge in voter registration.

Brulte took over a year ago and says he is rebuilding the party "from the ground up," asking candidates to craft the message that best fits their constituents rather than adopt positions handed down from on high.

"The candidate that most looks like and sounds like and has the most shared values and shared experience of the majority of voters wins," Brulte said.

The state Republican Party platform calls for enforcement of immigration laws and says that "allowing illegal immigrants to remain in California undermines respect for the law." It also calls for termination of all state benefits, except emergency medical care, to people in California illegally.

Vidak supports a path to citizenship for such immigrants. And he was one of only two Republican senators to vote last year for a bill granting wide access to driver's licenses for people living here without permission.

"I've worked beside folks who are in that situation," Vidak said. Lack of a license can be "a real hardship on people."

The only other Republican senator to vote for that bill was Anthony Cannella of Ceres, who employed a message similar to Vidak's to win election in a Central Valley district where Democrats also have a double-digit edge in voter registration.

Their positions resonated with agricultural workers who have had trouble getting to work and farm owners struggling to find enough field hands to harvest their crops. A majority of the voting-age population in Vidak's newly drawn district is Latino.

Vidak and Cannella also split from most Republican senators in voting for a new law allowing those who reside in California illegally to practice law if they pass the bar exam.

Read more at Los Angeles Times.

Republican Senator Andy Vidak's 16th State Senate District
Voter registration is 45.5% Democrat to 29% GOP.

Republican Senator Anthony Cannella's 12th district.
Voter registration is 46% Democrat and 32% GOP.

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