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San Diego Mayor Faulconer Speaks Out On Future Of California GOP

March 6, 2019 1:50 p.m.

GUEST:Carla Marinucci, political reporter, Politico

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Related Story: San Diego Mayor Faulconer Speaks Out On Future Of California GOP


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

We've heard a lot about the dismal state of the Republican Party in California. There are now more registered decline to state independent voters than there are Republicans. The Democrats have super majorities in both houses of the state legislature. Democrat Gavin Newsom had just succeeded Democrat Jerry Brown as governor and there are no Republicans in statewide office. So it's no surprise the California Republicans are searching for a new way. Former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted the second new way California summit for the GOP in Sacramento on Tuesday.

And one of the featured speakers was San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner.

And I am here with a clear message. We have an obligation to offer California a GOP with broad appeal again because a vibrant competitive two party system is essential for our state.

Joining me now is Carla Marinucci. She's senior writer at Politico and author of the California playbook newsletter. And Carla welcome to the program. Maureen good to be with you. New way California is made up mostly of Republican moderates who have never gotten onboard the Trump train. What else can you tell us about how this group was founded and what it stands for.

Yeah. Well I mean Republicans have taken a beating as you said in California for the last couple of years and many of those moderates have said there has to be a way for the state to have a two party system. They're saying it's good for voters it's good for legislation and they are trying to find some way to revive a party that has been as Schwarzenegger has said dying at the box office for more than a decade here. A lot of those moderates including Schwarzenegger including Mayor Faulkner including Assemblyman Chad Mayes and others have said that there is a way back and that includes actually cooperating with Democrats on legislation talking about issues like immigration education in ways that appeal to those middle of the road voters.

And remember that in California one in five voters are now declined to state voters here are turning off to both parties. But the Republicans have really taken it when it comes to elections.

Mayor Faulconer is the only Republican mayor out of the nation's 10 largest cities. I'm wondering does that lend him some sway in this movement.

Yeah I think it does in and Faulkner is a really good example of a Republican who many people think could have been elected to statewide office has the possibility of being a U.S. Senate candidate or a governor had the atmosphere in California been different for Republicans. He is a rare absolute Reagan esque Republican. And the speech he gave this week Maureen was very much in this in the mold of Reagan. That is the Republican Party should be open to immigrants. The Republican Party should be open to to welcoming women and hearing about their issues and talking about education and development.

He has said that you know look Democrats in this state have used Trump as a sort of a a rod to beat Republicans with and both Faulkner and Schwarzenegger are are of the mold of not criticizing Trump unlike some of the folks in the new way coalition. But the fact is that Faulkner is is a perfect example of how low the Republican Party has come in California in that he cannot get elected statewide as long as he has it after his name and I think he he understands that a lot of people in the Republican Party are are dismayed at that part of Faulkner's message was that the California Republican Party has to regenerate itself it has to find some distance between it and the national Republican Party.

And I'm wondering hasn't that process already started taking place with the election of new Republican Party head Jessica Patterson.

Yes I think there's a debate on that in the sense of a Patterson yes is the first woman to head the California Republican Party she's 38 she's a Latina and mother of two a lot of people really hailed her election as being a new start. On the other hand she's she's a social conservative she's very much a supporter of President Trump. She said she voted for him. She volunteered for him. She went to his inauguration. She's not that distant from him. But but the common factor with her Falkner and Schwarzenegger are they really don't want to talk about President Trump they believe that Trump's 3:00 a.m. tweets et cetera have been a distraction for the party and that the California Republican Party needs to concentrate on California issues and that is the the difference.

There are some of the new way Republicans who believe you know who say they are never Trump's and who are very much critical of the president and call him out. But Paterson doesn't go there. And I think this is sort of a division in the Republican Party right now even among the moderates. One issue I think that a lot of people raised eyebrows with Jessica Patterson's election was she did refer to Democrats repeatedly at the state Republican convention as the enemy. And that is part of that hyper partisan atmosphere I think that many of the new way Republicans want to get away from.

If California Republicans are successful in moving and creating a Republican Party here that gives some distance between them and the national Republican Party how much of an impact might that strategy have on the national Republican Party.

I think it could be a very big impact. You know we know California's fifth largest economy in this state is home to the nation's largest state Republican Party. It's an A.T.M. for the Republican Party. Trump will no doubt be here to campaign and to raise money. But if California Republicans are successful in putting forth an agenda that appeals to those 1 in 5 nonpartisan voters here in California and maybe to some moderate Democrats that will be something that will be watched. People are watching to see if Republican legislators can thread the needle can come up with issues here and discussions here and action in the state capital that appeals to voters across party lines.

If they do that they'll be able to start working their way back up. It's going to be a slog. I think everybody agrees. But many Republicans think it can be done.

I've been speaking with Carla Marinucci senior writer at Politico author of the California playbook newsletter. Carla thank you. Good to be with you.