If one state has been immune to the GOP waves of 2010 and 2014 it is California. A partisan redistricting dressed up as Independent didn’t hurt either in 2012. Now, Republicans, who do not control a single statewide office and only 14 of the state’s 53 Congressional seats find themselves without a candidate to fight for Barbara Boxer’s open seat. Rather, all the drama seems to be on the Democratic side with at least four candidates able to make a claim to be able to vie for her seat.
Electorally speaking, California used to be a competitive state. The state voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 yet reelected GOP Governor Pete Wilson with 55% in 1994. Since that election Republicans have only gone downhill in the state. Not even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s moderate tenure turned the party’s fortunes around. Replacing a recalled Democratic Governor, Schwarzenegger cruised on his name ID. But by midway through his second term the Governor was turning to liberal ideas to make up budget shortages and each one was soundly rejected by a liberal electorate.
Republicans, soundly crushed in California and nationally in 2008 hoped that 2010 offered them better hopes. Boxer was up for reelection and the Governorship was open and Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown was running again. Despite two stellar GOP nominees neither garnered more than 45% of the vote and the party did not pick up a single Congressional seat. In 2012 the GOP only sunk further. An “Independent” redistricting gave Democrats several solid pickup opportunities and wiped out a slate of moderate GOP Congressmen and women. One of these, Mary Bono Mack, was probably the party’s best chance at running for statewide office in the near future.
So, with few prospects the party very likely will nominate a no-name who may not even garner enough votes to be in the top two in the primary. Two Democrats could battle it out for the open Senate seat in November. But, this does not mean the GOP is doomed to be forever locked out of power. Despite losing a Congressional seat in 2014 and every competitive race in the state the GOP ran a diverse crop of candidates. Further, in late 2013, a GOP candidate won the Mayoral race in San Diego with 55% minority support. Those are numbers the GOP would kill for statewide.
The GOP did enjoy some success in 2014. The party took three seats in the state Senate and ended the Democrats 2/3rds majority. Republicans will once again have a say in the budget process. Second, the party ran a Gubernatorial nominee who has a bright political future ahead, Neel Kashkari. An Indian-American, if he ever runs again and controls his gaffe prone habits he could remake the GOP in the state.
Republican hopes in the short-term rely on the chance that Democrats implode in the near future. Jerry Brown, Boxer and Feinstein are shrewd political operatives who have held together a diverse political coalition of greens, the young, minorities and wealthy by supporting slow and steady change. Those likely to replace them may unleash an agenda that splits the coalition. Brown’s gubernatorial tenure has largely been unremarkable minus unsurprising tax hikes. Feinstein, if she retires in 2018, will take her moderately liberal agenda with her.
Not that this helps Republicans in less than two years. But it does give them hope for the future. They need all they can get.