Why are the Republicans even talking about winning back the governorship? It’s clear that they don’t have a candidate with a chance. And Gov. Jerry Brown has been so focused on locking austerity levels of spending in place that he’d stand a decent chance of winning a Republican primary. (Maybe Democrats should be asking who their candidate for governor is.)
No, better to focus the party’s very limited resources elsewhere. But where? Not the legislature, where the best the party could do would be to win back more than a third in both houses — which represents a poisoned trophy (the ability to do the sort of obstruction and hostage taking that convinced voters to give the Democrats supermajorities).
Here are three better places for the GOP to focus its energies.
1) Local party-building. Trying to make local GOP parties players not just in elections but in community life would be the best place to start. The parties should be places where people get together, get to know their neighbors, and have a good time. Local GOP book clubs, Frisbee golf tournaments, chili cook-offs, skateboarding tournaments. Get people actually wanting to spend time with Republicans.
2) Secretary of State. As I’ve written previously, the candidacy of Pete Peterson is a gift to the GOP. The guy is running on a very big idea – transforming the relationship between citizen and government. The party would do well to amplify that message – not merely because the party would benefit from the association, but because Californians badly need to hear that message.
3) Controller. If I were Jim Brulte, I’d put every dollar I could into winning this office. The controller has great (and little used) powers to be a check on government. Controllers have the power to investigate, collect data and issue reports. The party should find the best candidate it can – preferably a respected prosecutor or investigator with a non-partisan image – and run him or her. The argument would be: the Democrats have huge power, and power corrupts. The state needs someone who can check that power. The controller is the right spot for a Republican. Presented with enough force, this argument could be a winner with Democrats.
Those are achievable goals for 2014. Bigger, more locally ground parties around the state. Turning the Secretary of State’s race into a high-profile discussion of how to empower citizens. And grab the controller’s spot.