Barrales Will Need Eons to Change the GOP’s Face


The California Republican Party, which gathers this weekend in Sacramento to elect a new chairman, has something of a problem.

Party registration is down to about 31 29%. It’s in the hole for as much as $800,000. No Republican holds statewide office. Democrats control the Legislature. Women, people of color, gays and lesbians, urban professionals and young people have shown they have no use for the party and its candidates. And about one in three of the fastest-growing segment of the voting population – Latinos – tell pollsters they won’t even consider a Republican.

On one issue after another – choice, gay marriage, immigration, property taxes, gun control, to name a few – the state GOP is completely out of step with the mainstream views of Californians. They have no identifiable candidate for governor or U.S. Senate. And for decades, those controlling the California party have sought to push it further and further to the right, making it increasingly pure, white, isolated and more poisonous as an imprimatur for anyone seeking statewide office.

Other than that, everything is just fine.

Comes now Ruben Barrales, like Don Quixote, seeking to improve his party’s fortunes  by identifying, recruiting, training and electing more Latino Republicans to local, municipal, county and state offices. Good luck with that.

Barrales knows from first-hand experience what it’s like to be a raisin in the sun. The former San Mateo County supervisor – smart, handsome and savvy — set out to run for Treasurer in 1998 only to be bumped out of the race when Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle of Orange County decided he wanted to run for the open seat.

That was after Stu Spencer, the granddaddy of Republican wise men in California (having guided to success a guy named Ronald Reagan), had written a Nov. 26, 1997 memo he titled “Wake-up Call for GOP,” pleading for his party to support Barrales for Treasurer and arguing that the California GOP is “dramatically losing market share of the fastest growing segment of the electorate . . . The stakes are too high for us to act like political ostriches and ignore the challenges we face.”

Calbuzz re-documented this sad chapter in GOP history back in October 2011, describing how Barrales ran instead for Controller, against incumbent Democrat Kathleen Connell, and got creamed 61-33% — running behind Republican registration, which was 35% at the time.

Barrales went on to serve as Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush, Director, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in the White House and later CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. He recently stepped down from that job to become president and CEO of Elect Grow, a political action group dedicated to electing more Latino Republicans to political office, starting at the local level.

He’s done well, he’s a bright guy and he recognizes that changing the face of the Republican Party of California is a long-, long-, long-term project. Consider that when the Field Poll recently asked voters if they support creating “a program that would allow illegal immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for a number of years an opportunity to stay in this country and apply for citizenship if they have a job, learned English and paid back taxes,” 95% of Democrats, 92% of independents and – drum roll, please – 81% of Republicans agreed.

But where is the California GOP on this issue? Staunchly opposed to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants – so much so, that in the 2010 Republican primary for governor, alleged “moderates” Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner outdid one another demonstrating how opposed they were to going soft on illegal immigrants.

Consider, for example, the message offered by David Miller of San Gabriel Valley, who’s running for chairman of the CRP.

“The California Republican Party does not have financial problems, it has a branding problem,” Miller argues. “. . .  there’s nothing wrong with our core Republican principles of limited government, constitutional rule of law, sound fiscal and monetary policy, personal freedom and individual responsibility.  We’re just doing a very poor job of communicating those principles by translating them into policies and legislation that resonate with voters.”

Actually, the California GOP has done an excellent job of communicating its principles. That’s the problem. Voters understand exactly what the Republican Party’s agenda is, which is why they’re spiraling toward irrelevancy.

But altering the GOP’s platform, Barrales says, is not on Grow Elect’s agenda. Rather, he argues, as the composition of the party changes, reflecting the communities from which officials are elected – that is, increasingly filled with Latino voters – the policies supported by the state party will also change. Over time. Lots of time. Eons, we would argue.

“Hopefully we’re recruiting candidates who are reflective of their communities, so hopefully they’re addressing issues of importance to their communities,” Barrales told Calbuzz. “Grow Elect is agnostic (on the issue of pathway to citizenship). If you get more Latinos who are Republican officeholders, in a way you’ll change he party – they’ll be setting the agenda for the party. It’s a long range effort – I want to change the face of the people running the Republican Party and the people who are elected officials.”

Since his own experience 15 years ago, he said, “In some ways its gotten worse. It’s a long term effort – I have no illusions about an election cycle or two. We’re talking about identifying a new generation of leaders in California.”

His formula is simple: “If you want more Latinos to support the Republican Party, you have to get more Latinos in the Republican Party.”

But this is a chicken-and-egg thing, we suspect. How do you attract Latinos to a party that tells them their mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins and neighbors have no place here – or if they do, the conditions are so onerous that no one wants even to try to play the game?

It doesn’t help that about 74% of the start-up funding for Grow Elect came from Charles Munger Jr., the Palo Alto jillionaire who last year laundered donated $28,987,452 through Joel Fox’s Small Business Action Committee to oppose Jerry Brown’s budget-saving Proposition 30 and oppose the anti-union Proposition 32.

Don’t look for the new GOP Chairman, Jim Brulte, to offer much guidance on his issue. He’s doing everything he can to avoid having to express opinions about issues like a pathway to citizenship.

But his party – and many of the people in leadership positions at the county and regional level – has some very strong stands on this issue and others that repel the very people guys like Ruben Barrales hope to attract. It’s a good thing Barrales has no illusions about “an election cycle or two.”

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There are 7 comments for this post

  1. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    The problem for the Republican party is primaries.

    Republican primaries tend to attract older, more conservative voters. Primary voters are apt to be more ideologically rigid. So, while Hank Plante rightly notes in his piece on same-sex marriage that younger Republicans tend to hold different views, they are also less likely to turn out to vote in primaries.

    My 85-year-old Republican mother, however, always votes in primaries. And she thinks minorities are destroying the state and the country. As a dittohead, Mom thinks a lot of crazy things. Every time she starts a sentence with “Rush says,” I cringe. But Mom is not likely to change her opinion on any of the nutso things Rush says. Believe me, I’ve tried to demonstrate that he just makes this stuff up and she absolutely refuses to listen. Facts are simply not important to her. But she’s the type of voter who is most apt to vote in Republican primaries. And she’s probably not going to stop voting any time in the near future.

    So, if Mr. Barrales really wants to change things, he needs to counteract the nuts like Mom by getting more young Republicans to vote in primaries. Otherwise Mom and her like-minded conservative voters will continue to nominate candidates who reflect views that will keep alienating large numbers of Latino, black, gay, and female voters. And they will keep losing elections.

  2. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    Exactly. And on a national scale, the problem is those 50,000 toothless hillbillies in congressional districts scattered throughout the south and parts of the midwest. They are responsible for the bloc of Tea Party/hard right Republicans who are holding up any kind of progress/compromise in Congress on just about anything, but certainly including deficits and taxes. Those members of Congress are deathly afraid if being “primaried” by someone who is even more disconnected from reality than they are — someone who is more able to appeal to the prejudices and ignorance of said toothless hillbillies. So they have to sound like idiots in order to win their primaries. The national mood doesn’t affect them — only the mood in their districts.

  3. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    The truth about Republicans and Latinos is somewhat different than the Latinos crying “pox on Republicans” picture you claim. You see Latinos are heavily lower income folks so they behave politically just like all…but for Blacks…other low income groups. They are heavily Democrat voting. After all, they were given free or near-free medical care, more subsidized Section 8 housing, and broader food-stamp coverage by the Demos and Obama during the the last 4 years.

    How did Latinos vote on Mitt Romney on the other hand if their household income was $50,000 or higher? The majority of better off Latinos, according to election exit polls voted for Mitt. Lesson learned?!!!

    I think the Republican goal of greater economic opportunity for all will continue to shave the Democrat margin over the next ten years including the Latino one as California’s dead last standing among the states in per cent in poverty is made smaller by our Republican law makers.

    • avatar Noozeyeguy says:

      Ah, the 47% argument rears its head again.

      Ernie, have you (or the GOP at large) ever stopped to ponder the chicken-and-egg nature of that position? The proven proportional invalidity of the argument aside, one could argue just as much of a causal relationship between lower-income voting patterns and the GOP’s repeated denigrations of that very demographic. Why would you vote for people who clearly don’t like you very much?

      This also follows with Hispanic voting patterns and the GOP positions on immigration and border security. There is some merit to the Republican assertions that their party’s social-issue positions more closely track with “traditional” Hispanic social values. But most can’t get past the GOP’s slavish obsession with “getting rid of the illegals.”

      Many folks in the CRP, and the Republican party at large, realize that the rigid adherence to dogmatic “conservative” social-issue positions are alienating an increasing share of the electorate. Bob Larkin (who happened to be my insurance agent until his recent passing) had been trumpeting this from the hilltops for well over a decade. But as Chrisfinnie pointed out: as long as the “wingnuts” in the GOP continue to dominate the primary process, and the party at large continues to cater to them, the CRP is doomed to effective irrelevance.

    • avatar Tigershark says:


      If the Republicans are depending on the votes of those households making more than $50,000 a year they should abandon their policies that insure fewer and fewer households make over $50,000 a year. Wages have been stagnating for 30 years as taxes for the top earners and services for the middle class have been slashed.

  4. avatar Tigershark says:

    And if they want the votes of women Republican leaders probably shouldn’t say things like this:


  5. avatar montanez707 says:

    Disagree with the Latino vote. They tend to be super conservative on social issues and hate taxes more than the chupacabras. Gun rights they are all for them! You see the mentality Mexico and south of that is to distrust Big Government!

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