The Jim Brulte/Garry South Show: Whither California Politics

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Former Republican state senator Jim Brutle, likely soon to be chairman of the California Republican Party, and Democratic political consultant, Garry South, now both partners at California Strategies, often appear around the state together discussing the California political scene. They brought their road show to Malibu last week at a salon dedicated to public affairs sponsored by businessman and philanthropist, B. Wayne Hughes, Jr.

There was little disagreement between the two political veterans that California Republicans have a problem with the changing demographics of the state’s voters and seemingly are losing any sense of balance in the eternal battle between business and labor.
For Brulte’s part, he said he was a “little more upbeat” that the current situation could be turned around.

The traditional perspective that business supports the Republican agenda while labor is in the corner of Democrats is not holding sway in California. While Brulte noted that 98% of labor resources go to Democrats, business splits its contributions between Republicans and Democrats giving Democrats an overall edge.

Recognizing the political reality of the overwhelming Democratic control of the state, Brulte said, too many businesses concede the game.

South said business’s problem is that business thinks it can buy its way out of political troubles, hoping that large contributions will carry their candidates to victory. Business, unlike labor, doesn’t put people into campaigns. Unless business can figure out a way to put boots on the ground, they will be outgunned by labor, South said. Candidates remember who is going door to door for them.

Business does have an opportunity to reach out to the minority communities that are changing California politics. South said that one fast growing group is Hispanic women creating small businesses.

But he said, Republicans often read minorities incorrectly. While acknowledging that Latinos are culturally conservative, Republicans make the mistake that they are also fiscally conservative, which they are not, South argued.

South insisted that Republicans were going about their approach to Latinos all wrong. “You can’t convince Latinos to vote Republican by having a mariachi band at a Lincoln Day dinner.”

South said that Republicans have a math problem when it comes to the changing electorate.

In 1994, when Pete Wilson was elected governor 82% of the vote was white, 8% was Latino. In 2010, when Meg Whitman ran for governor, 62% of the vote was white, 22% was Latino.

Whitman received the largest percentage of the White vote in the state’s history but lost the election by 13%. South rattled off numbers showing the growing vote for Democrats from minority voters over the years, Asian as well as Latino.

However, Brulte argued there would be opportunities for the Republicans to reach all voters with common sense stands. One likely place to find that opportunity will be the Democrats desire for more revenue.

You might call it: the Leopard-doesn’t-change-its-spots scenario.

Brulte noted that when Governor Wilson left office in 1998 his budget was $58 billion with a surplus of $12.3 billion. Yet, Democrats, such as then Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, thought that was not enough revenue and called for a sales tax increase. After Proposition 30 passed raising taxes, Brulte pointed out, Senator Ted Lieu wanted to triple the car tax.

Democrats have a problem with fiscal restraint that Republicans will exploit.

Brulte said the road back for Republicans will be long and hard but insisted the journey must take place. Unchecked one party rule is not healthy for the state, he said.

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