California GOP Loses Again

Unpopular: Issa, left, and Lungren
Unpopular: Issa, left, and Lungren
That California Republican Party is so pathetic that it is tempting to bleeding-heart types to feel sad for them. GOP registration is on a years-long downhill slide (it could dip below 30 percent soon), and the state party is so underfunded that it could not afford to buy advertising in the 2008 campaign. In the 2010 midterms, a Republican wave election across the country, every statewide GOP candidate — for U.S. senator, governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, etc. — but one lost to Democrats by 10 points or more. (The Democratic attorney general candidate won, but by a slim margin.)

The best known California Republicans are also the state’s least-popular politicians, including former Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson and current House members, Rep. Darrell Issa, the wealthiest House member, an accused car thief and arsonist who chairs the House committee that investigates the Obama administration, and Rep. “Styrofoam Dan” Lungren, the former state attorney general and current chairman of the House Administration Committee, who made news recently for rescinding Democrats’ efforts to “green” the Capitol Building.

Earlier this year, the California GOP took another hit when the state’s new redistricting plan created districts that more accurately reflect the GOP’s dwindling presence. Political analysts of all stripes predict that the redrawn districts could result in a veto-proof majority for Democrats in at least one house of the legislature as well as the loss of at least five Republican seats in the U.S. House. One seat on the chopping block is likely that of Rep. David Drier, chairman of the House Rules Committee, and perhaps the most powerful closeted gay Republican in Congress.

If the party loses five House seats, it would reduce the Republican delegation from 19 out of 53 seats now to 14 seats. It would also put the Democrats five seats closer to the 25 seats they need to take control of the House next year.

In a desperate attempt to stop the redistricting plan, the California GOP sued the state. This would have made sense if the new maps had been drawn in secret in Sacramento for the purpose of protecting Democratic incumbents. But the new maps were drawn by an independent citizens commission that was created by voter referendum, which — and you had to know this was coming — the California GOP promoted in not one but two separate elections.

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court, which is made up of six Republicans and one Democrat, rejected the state GOP lawsuit, in a 7-0 decision. Here is reaction from the Los Angeles Times political columnist George Skelton:

Republicans had argued for decades that the Legislature — perpetually ruled by Democrats — should be stripped of its corrupting power to draw districts to the majority party’s advantage. Of course, Republicans thought it was OK 10 years ago when they and Democrats conspired to gerrymander districts to protect incumbents of both parties.

But finally, California voters agreed with the GOP and placed the drawing of legislative and congressional seats in the hands of a 14-member independent commission, consisting of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independents.

And wouldn’t you know? The GOP squawked at the first set of state Senate maps and sued. The state’s highest court dismissed the suit on a 7-0 vote…

But the California GOP’s problem is not the shape of districts, it’s the size of a shrinking membership. Republicans continue to hemorrhage voters. New registration figures released Tuesday by the secretary of state show the bleeding.

The Republicans’ share of registered voters is down to 30.4%, a fall of roughly three points in the last four years. Democrats are 43.6% of the electorate, up about one point.

Independents, who don’t state any party preference, are 21.2% of the registration, up nearly two points.

In essence, the GOP has become a third party in the San Francisco Bay Area. Independents outnumber Republicans in five counties surrounding the bay, plus a sixth county, Santa Cruz.

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