What is a “New California Republican?

One rising political star increasingly mentioned as gubernatorial material thinks he knows and believes that prospects for GOP success at the polls will improve if others embrace his credos.

In a generally well-received address before the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco this past week, San Diego Mayor, Kevin Faulconer, offered his vision of the new-found species in a city where Republicans of any breed are all but extinct.

They do not fare much better in much of this deep blue state which has not expressed a strong preference for any Republicans since Ronald Reagan’s successful two-term reign as Governor and later as President.

If the GOP is going to serve up candidates with the prospects of running one day for state and national office, Faulconer could be a leading choice.

To do so he will have to revamp the image of numerous GOP contenders whose unacceptability has resulted in Democrats holding every state constitutional office, a supermajority in the legislature, both U.S. Senate seats and 39 of California’s 53 seats in Congress.

The last Republican governor to break through was Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003 whose surprising ascendancy and maverick streak after the recall of Gray Davis made him something of an anomaly.

But his predecessor, Republican Pete Wilson, another San Diego Mayor who served from 1991-1999, may have adversely affected GOP fortunes until this day with stances that alienated millions of minority voters who any candidate will need to win the governorship.

His vocal opposition to undocumented immigrants receiving state benefits and his support of Props 209 and 227 which banned racial preferences for disadvantaged minorities and prohibited bilingual education (both of which survived legal challenges) is still remembered by millions of Hispanic/Latino voters who are a growing political force. And driven by President Donald Trump’s relentless assault on immigrants, the party has much mending to do.

California is home to 15 million eligible Hispanic citizens, 6.9 million of whom are eligible voters. 71% of their votes went to Hillary Clinton and they have become the majority minority bloc in the state.

Faulconer seems to recognize this demographic change and if Republicans adjust their thinking on this issue and other matters vital to Californians they could break the Democratic monopoly.

Faulconer told a respectful audience that his party “must stand with American immigrants—and offer new Americans a welcoming home in the party,” and “be more vocal about their economic and cultural contributions to California.”

These views run directly counter to those of the Trump Administration that appears to be stuck in a time freeze advocating policies that are hurtful to foreigners who have lived here legally for decades and may now be facing deportation.

He also favors building stronger bridges to minority communities, correcting the states “crumbling infrastructure and rebuilding California,” and talks about plans for “preserving the environment.”

“It’s time for California Republicans to return our focus to the people of this state, said Faulconer. And he warns that “the California GOP doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of the national GOP.”

While these are noble pledges, it is not clear how the youngish Mayor with an appealing personality intends to carry them out without espousing approaches that are anathema to many party-line Republicans.

He opposes any new taxes and especially the $5.2 billion 12% gas tax hike which the legislature passed with only one dissenting Democratic vote for road and bridge repairs and mass transit expansion.

As head of a border city which has encouraged free trade with Mexico, he strongly favors NAFTA which runs contrary to what Trump calls “the worst deal ever made,” alleging that it has cost jobs, whereas Faulconer considers the treaty a major job generator.

Governor Jerry Brown has been adept at straddling the divide between those who favor economic expansion through greater corporate investment and public spending combined with fiscal restraint and others who decry any broadening of entitlements and services which they believe is turning California into a welfare state.

Faulconer sees that changes are necessary providing they do not “plunder the middle class.” It was exactly those fears of declining wages and shrinking employment opportunities while Big Business was becoming further enriched that drove millions into the Trump camp.

For reasons both of their own making and beyond their control and in the face of fierce obstruction on Capitol Hill, divided Democrats have been slow in sending a clear message that their policies will bring salvation for the middle class.

Californians were very clear in their rejection of Donald Trump and though some of their political harmony has been fractured by ideological conflicts within the party, the state’s Democrats are united in their opposition to a rogue presidency.

Whether by divorcing himself from the extremism that swept Trump into the White House by luring enough anti-Trump Republicans and Independents to his cause while also peeling away disenchanted Democrats, Faulconer can convince a majority of California voters that he belongs in the State House remains to be seen.

That remains a tall order. Faulconer thinks he has spied an opening and a New California Republican could turn the trick. But so far he has said he will not seek the governorship.