Campbell: Republicans shouldn’t pretend California is experiencing a GOP resurgence

Thanks to the Democrats making a BIG mistake, putting Prop. 16 on the ballot, we won two Orange County Congressional  seats.  This brought out the Asian-American vote to kill off congressional Democrats in the OC.  In 1982 Tom Bradley would have won the governorship had it not been for Democrats putting an anti-gun measure on the ballot.  That cost him the election.

“In contests for the State Legislature, Democrats gained two state Senate seats while losing one Assembly seat. This is hardly an argument that the GOP is surging in California. The Democrats grew their control of the California Senate from 72.5 percent to 77.5 percent, while accepting a slight drop from 76.25 percent of the Assembly to 75 percent.

If Republicans consider that outcome in the California Legislature a victory, they are engaged in massive self-deception.

Sadly, some are taking credit for the congressional victories—when they had nothing to do with it.  Valadao lost in 2018 by under 1,000 votes.  In 2020 he won by 1550 votes.  This is a swing district.  Note in the Campbell article the California Republican Party is not even mentioned as an organizing factor in the election.

Republicans shouldn’t pretend California is experiencing a GOP resurgence

By Tom Campbell | Orange County Register, 12/28/20  

Republican leaders, notably Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, are actively supporting the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom as a way of firing up the Republican base, if not actually because the recall is likely to win.

The Republicans point to the three California congressional seats they took away from the Democratic incumbents and the outcome of the ballot initiatives to argue the party is on the rebound.

Actually, these results point in different directions.

One of the congressional races was in the Central Valley, where Republican David Valadao won back the seat he lost to TJ Cox in the Democratic landslide of 2018.  Both elections were decided by less than a point. A fair interpretation of that outcome would be that the heavily Hispanic district based on an agricultural economy remains a toss-up. The 2018 election went Democratic by 962 votes; the 2020 election went Republican by 1,522 votes. This race hardly indicates a broader rebound for the GOP in California.

Neither do the other Republican Congressional pick-ups provide evidence of a Republican resurgence. In Orange County, incumbent, first-term Democratic congressmembers lost when they were running against Asian American Republicans, but won otherwise.

The Asian American vote was particularly energized by the presence of Proposition 16 on the ballot which threatened to give the University of California the power to admit or deny admission to students based on their race.

Asian Americans are 15 percent of California’s population but 36 percent of UC admissions. Every other major ethnic group’s representation at UC is lower than its statewide population. It was obvious to the Asian American population that Prop. 16 was a direct threat to their children’s opportunity to go to a UC campus. While hard data are not available, it is likely that Asian Americans turned out disproportionately for last month’s election for this reason, especially in Orange County.

Properly understood, therefore, the outcome of the congressional elections in Orange County was not an endorsement of the Republican Party, but an artifact of the landslide rejection of Proposition 16.

However, that itself is a position endorsed by the Republican Party, so, in that sense, Republican leaders might have some basis for claiming the state is more aligned with Republican than Democratic party views. Republicans can also point to the defeat of the effort to assess higher property taxes on businesses (Proposition 15) by 4 points. Rent control, also favored more by Democratic than Republican politicians, was not expanded, with a 20 point defeat of Proposition 21.  Proposition 22, allowing Uber and other gig economy jobs to continue, prevailed over organized labor’s view supported by the Democratic Party, by 18 points.

A fact-based assessment of last month’s election thus demonstrates that Californians think for themselves on individual issues. They do not necessarily follow the Democratic Party’s official line.  Equally true, however, all else equal, Californians generally favor Democratic candidates. Registered voters in last month’s election were 46.1 percent Democratic, 24.2 percent Republican, and 24.0 percent no party designated. President-elect Biden won 63.5 percent of California’s vote; President Trump won 34.3 percent of the vote. If each candidate carried his party’s registration, Biden won 17.4 of the 24.0 points represented by those with no party.

That result reaffirms the Democrats’ story: Republican candidates can’t win statewide office in California. Statewide, a Democrat need only keep her or his own party’s registered voters and add just 5 more percentage points to win.

In contests for the State Legislature, Democrats gained two state Senate seats while losing one Assembly seat (In 2019 two GOP Assembly members LEFT the Party). This is hardly an argument that the GOP is surging in California. The Democrats grew their control of the California Senate from 72.5 percent to 77.5 percent, while accepting a slight drop from 76.25 percent of the Assembly to 75 percent.

If Republicans consider that outcome in the California Legislature a victory, they are engaged in massive self-deception.

Tom Campbell is a professor of law and a professor of economics at Chapman University. He served five terms in the U.S. Congress. He resigned from the Republican Party when it nominated President Trump in 2016. He is engaged in creating a new political  party in California, the Common Sense Party.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.


  1. ExCaliExpat says

    Maybe if the Republican Party would adopt a more populist platform, rather than focusing on SOCIAL issues of morality like abortion rights, they’d do better in California…

    AND, they need to purge themselves of the Chamber of Commerce “donor class”, who only support pols that sell out to the very Asian forces that wish to overtake the United States.

    • Celeste Greig says

      Abortion is NOT the reason or fault in the CA GOP’s voter apathy, or decline
      on voter registration, is THE lack of leadership, Arnold Schwarzenegger was
      pro choice and got elected and re-elected for his fame as the Terminator, three
      subsequent nominees for Governors; Meg Whitman, Neel Kashkari, and John Cox
      were also pro-choice, did they win…? No, so Abortion is NOT to blame, as all of
      them got endorsements and support from pro-life organizations and pro-life
      voters. However one would argue why elect a “Republican” as a carbon copy
      of a Dem.

  2. Mary Cunningham says

    The California Republican party has been sidelined by leadership that was anti republican. There has been a lets get along with the opposition attitude for years. No push for registrations, no educational propaganda to explain a conservative stance and a leadership that was anti Trump and that held middle America in contempt.

  3. Dr. W. Trent Saxton says

    The California Republican party would best be represented as a “Fly” in the room. In fact in California, they should change the Grand Old Party Elephant to a the Grand Old Pest, the “FLY.”… It would be more accurate and representative of their leadership. Define insanity. Never mind, you fight like girls. California will remain not just Blue, but Navy Blue. Send and spend your money in other states that will remain Red.

  4. William Hicks says

    I have to agree that the GOP should not even begin to think there’s a resurgence in the political party. After the next wave of redistricting with the current census, this State is as lost as detroit.

  5. Anthony J. Accetta says

    Politics is a funny game. I really saw the writing on the wall when Mr. Stephen Frank and Travis Allen both ran for CAGOP Chair and both were washed away at the last minute by the Republican Old Guard who propped up a last minute candidate who should never have been there. The will of the Grassroots Republicans was shredded and many are still disillusioned.

    Remarkably this was preceded with Republican wisdom of supporting a “perpetual candidate” John Cox for our Republican Governor Candidate. How Cox got the nod still amazes me since he basically came in from Illinois and ran 11 or so times for political office (including for President) without winning anything!

    In conclusion I believe that current Republican leadership in the CAGOP offer very little excitement and action towards pushing Republican principles.We need leaders with a “will to fight” and current leaders have little heart to take on the Democrats. How Dems, and especially how Newsom, has locked us down, thrown people out of work and kept children from schools should be enough to swell our ranks if we had a few good leaders that could rally the population! I believe California is much redder than what we believe- we just need someone of substance, integrity, excitement and action to rally us.

    Republican CAGOP Leadership prove me wrong- show some fight- the people are ready and starved for leadership!

  6. As the paid ex-director of a county party I warned anyone who would listen about Schwarzenegger.

    I was told to shut up. I was told that the party has no right to question the statements of Arnold.

    When he sold the party out, I went back to these same people and asked them if they were willing to make the point that Schwarzenegger sold the Republicans down the river and hold his backers feet to the fire.

    I was then labeled a dissenter malcontent I have watched the same groups and establishment Republicans waste hundreds of thousands of dollars by backing they same types.

    Until the wallets are willing to back hard facts, and create informational PR we will not win.

  7. California needs a Electoral College system along with honest elections. With democrats involved, the latter would be a stretch.

  8. After years of listening to people bitch about politicians and our government we finally get someone who tries to really change things and what happens? Oh, Orange Man Bad, me want same ole shit!

    So the solution is another political party created by a loser who can’t understand how to negotiate through life and have a firm set of values.

    No thanks, he Thinks he has common sense but he’s just another malcontent struggling to get his way or the highway.

Speak Your Mind