In 2014, the California Republican Party – for the first time since November 2006 – had a successful election night. Their Assembly candidates knocked off three sitting Democratic legislators (the first time since 1994 a Democratic incumbent lost re-election) and they picked up a San Francisco Bay-area district. In the Senate, Republicans picked up an elusive Orange County seat and fended off challenges in the Central Valley. Moreover, two statewide office candidates came within single-digits of winning.

Yet, the party still only holds 28 seats in the State Assembly and 14 in the State Senate and Republicans only account for 28% of total registered voters in California – only besting No Party Preference registration by 4 points. Maintaining those 2014 successes and building on them for long-term sustainability requires changing the hearts and minds of Californians, not just relying on record low turnout elections and motivating a shrinking base. To illustrate this, let’s examine a simple thought experiment. What districts would the California Republican Party need to win in order to have majorities in the State Legislature?

Using the average Partisan Voting Index (PVI) for the past two presidential elections, we can get a quick sense of which districts the Republicans would have to win in order to gain legislative majorities.

State Assembly (41 required for majority; GOP needs 13 seats):

Winning only the R+ PVI State Assembly districts (i.e. those where Romney and McCain, on average, performed stronger than their national two-party vote) would give California Republicans 25 seats. The good news is that after the 2014 election, Republicans currently hold all of these R+ PVI seats. But of course, the caucus has 28 seats. The additional three are D+1, D+3, and D+8 PVI districts. Hence, Marc Steinorth, David Hadley, and Catharine Baker all prove that winning up to a D+8 PVI seat is possible. Adding the D+8 and lower districts to the R+ PVI seats, however, only gets Republicans to 32 – 9 short of the majority. Thus, to get over the top, Republicans would have to win all of the R+ PVI districts, all of the D+10 and lower districts, and 2/3rd of the D+11 PVI seats. To give a geographical sense of what this would mean, Republicans would have to able to win in the heart of Democratic suburban Los Angeles or in coastal strong-holds like Santa Barbara.

State Senate (21 required for majority; GOP needs 7 seats):

For the State Senate, winning only the R+ PVI districts brings the Republican total to 11 seats – three under the current caucus strength. As with their Assembly colleagues, Senate Republicans hold all of these districts plus 3 seats that are, respectively, D+1, D+5, and D+6. Janet Nguyen, Andy Vidak, and Anthony Cannella prove that Senate Republicans can compete in D+6 and lower districts. However, adding in all of the D+6 and lower seats to the R+PVI seats only boosts the Republican Senate caucus by an additional 3 seats – 4 short of the majority. The challenge, then, is to win all of the D+10 and lower districts in addition to the R+ PVI seats. Just as Assembly Republicans would need to compete in historically Democratic suburban and coastal strongholds, Senate Republicans would need to win in similar locations.

To get a better sense of just how competitive (or lack thereof) the additional must-wins are, let’s examine the vote score (i.e. the average Presidential, Senate, and Gubernatorial two-party vote share for the past four elections). In the Assembly D+11 PVI and lower districts (not including the R+ PVI seats), the average Democratic vote score is 58.1%. In the Senate, the D+10 and lower average vote score is 56.1%. In all, Republicans need to improve their electoral standing by about 10 points to make strong legislative advances.

Relying on low turnout elections and the conservative base just isn’t sufficient in building long-lasting legislative strength. The party needs to change the hearts and minds of suburban voters, of minority – particularly Latino and Asian – voters, of younger voters, and of women voters. There are growing examples of the Republican Assembly and Senate caucuses starting to make the necessary changes. Becoming the party of reform and good governance will work to broaden the party’s appeal and remove some of the tarnish the brand has collected over the years. But moving forward, the party leadership needs to aggressively pursue both pushing for bold reforms and supporting candidates that fit their district, even if they aren’t ideological purists. Only then will California end its one-party rule.