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Trump Poses A Love-Hate Quandary For California Republicans

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the California Republican Party 2016 convention in Burlingame, April 29, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the California Republican Party 2016 convention in Burlingame, April 29, 2016.

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.
Trump Poses A Love-Hate Quandary For California Republicans
Trump Poses A Love-Hate Quandary For California Republicans GUEST: Scott Shafer, senior editor, KQED's California politics and government desk

The GOP has found itself on the margins of state politics for years now. By contrast, the atmosphere at last week's Republican convention was loud. There was also high-profile and of national political significance. California Republicans are about to play a crucial role in deciding the GOP presidential race. Joining me is Scott Shafer senior editor for KQED California politics. Scott welcome. Thanks for having me. All three Republican candidates address the convention. Were there any surprises in their speeches question were We have all seen Donald Trump on TV for the last several months now. Seeing him in person is really something to behold when you watch from beginning to end. I would love to see as transcript because I'm not sure he completed a single sentence. He talks and it is very off-the-cuff, he starts a sentence and then he goes off. He goes off in another direction. I guess was apprise me about Trump speech besides that was how he continues to belittle people who you would think that he would want to be bringing him into the fold. Not only people like Jeb Bush who not long ago left the race but people like Carl wrote the Republican consultant who he basically called an idiot. Of course Ted Cruz and John Kasich as well. He basically said I don't want their endorsements if I get them it's find dental really need them. He was very dismissive and I was surprised by that. The other thing of course the big surprise was that the Wilson the former Governor. from your forked town was there to introduce and endorse Ted Cruz. Speaking about that, part of that endorsement was a warning that the Wilson gave about what a Trump nomination would mean to the party isn't that right question were That was at least half of the message. He is very concerned like a lot of Republicans about what it will mean to have Donald Trump at the top of the ticket in November. He warned that it would mean for one thing, devastation or decimation is the word he used, down the ballot. Assembly Senate races as well as congressional races down lower on the ballot. He said when it came to appoint judges to the US Supreme Court, heaven knows what Donald Trump will do as opposed to train five who he feels very comfortable with as a longtime conservative. It was very much an endorsement of Ted Cruz but like a said at least half of it was disparaging of Trump. You Scott also spoke to several Trump supporters. They thing Trump is the future of the GOP? There are a lot of Trump supporters and not just from conservative parts of California that we found quite a few of them in the liberal they area. Do they think of true -- Trump is the future of the party? I would not say that but they think he is the right person for this particular time. They are angry at the Republican party and they don't like the elites. They fill the Senate majority leaders and how speakers have not done with they said they would do in terms of policies and they want some body who will go into shape except. Now Donald Trump is a little light on details about how he is going to do that but they like the rhetoric and they like the outsider image in the notion of him going in there and really breaking a lot of eggs basically. What about the protesters question what they received a lot of media coverage. Out of the presence affect the convention? There was a lot of anticipation. Those of us who were inside the hotel and we had to be inside by about 10:30 PM because Secret Service required that if you had any equipment that you need to bring it with you. I wasn't out there when the protest reach their peak around 1130 but it was very traumatic because it was unclear how dental troubles going to get into the hotel. The actually forced him to get out of his limousine and walked down the highway and crossover a wall and through a ditch. He joked when he got up there that he felt like he was crossing the border which made some people a little nervous. There was some nervous laughter there. It really added a lot of drama to the start of the convention on Friday. There are GOP party organizers who are nervous about this entire situation. You spoke with some of them. They seem to say that they are going to be concentrating more on local elections. Is that right question were Even at the very top of the state Republican Party, I'm talking about jump Realty the chairman. They seem to some ways few this thing as a distraction from what they are really trying to do which is rebuild the party from the ground up. They have been focus for some time now on local races, school board elections, County supervisors, city councils, and a vague to be honest don't really care that much even about the U.S. Senate race because they quite candidly looked at the math and they don't think that a Republican can win statewide. The last Republican to win a Senate race in California was Pete Wilson back in 1988. They are really focused on the more local races and rebuilding a party that has been decimated by losses since 1996. So that is where they are focused and they want that focus to return was the primary is over on June 7. I've been speaking with Scott Shafer senior editor for KQED we, Scott as always thank you so much.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson rarely makes big speeches these days. But the 82-year-old Republican made a surprise appearance at the GOP convention Saturday to give an impassioned endorsement of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — that sounded just as much like an indictment of Donald Trump.

“My friends, we cannot afford a Republican nominee that brings us down ticket decimation of our 2014 hard-won midterm gains,” Wilson said. “Never has the California Republican primary election been so critical to the future of our nation.”


Trump’s insurgent and unorthodox candidacy has ignited a schism between party leaders like Wilson and Republican activists like Cheryl McDonald from Discovery Bay in Contra Costa County.

“He’s a go-getter,” McDonald said. McDonald was wearing red, white and blue clothes and a matching cowboy hat with electric lights. Minutes after Trump spoke to the convention Friday she declared her loyalty.

“He’s gonna go, and he’s gonna fight for all of us and make America great,” she said. “And that’s what we need. And he’s the only one who can beat Hillary!”

California Republicans love Donald Trump. Unless that is, they hate him.

“He’s the Kardashian of politics,” Republican consultant Rob Stutzman said. He and two other GOP strategists are leading an uphill fight to stop Trump in California. He sees the New York mogul as all sizzle, no steak. And he’s not buying Trump’s outsider message.


“To be anti-establishment and truly a person of the party should still be a principled conservative in order to be the Republican nominee and lead the Republican party,” Stutzman said. “Donald Trump’s not a conservative. He certainly isn’t principled.

Another big concern for Republicans: How will Trump — or even Ted Cruz — affect the party’s efforts to fix its dreadful image among Latinos? Strategist Mike Madrid was hired by the party two years after voters passed the anti-immigrant Proposition 187, which awakened a generation of Latino activism.

“In many ways it’s a little heartbreaking to look back 20 years later and come to the same convention where the same issues really have not resolved themselves, but in many ways gotten worse,” Madrid lamented Saturday. He wasn’t too thrilled about Gov. Wilson’s endorsement of Sen. Cruz either.

Asked whether he would have a hard time voting for Cruz or Trump, Madrid said “extremely.”

“I certainly won’t vote for Hillary Clinton,” Madrid said. “California’s not going to go Republican in November, anyway. I don’t really have to torture myself too long about that decision.”

Jaime Patino from Union City thinks Trump has good ideas and that he means well. But he says “there are times I do cringe when I hear him speak.”

Patino, the lone Republican in a family full of Democrats, admits he’s troubled by Trump’s characterization of Mexican immigrants and women.

“It looks like Trump will become the nominee,” Patino said. “If he is, I’ll back him. But I’m going to have to do some soul searching, to be honest with you.”

California Republicans are an endangered species. Just 28 percent of the state’s voters are registered with the party, compared with the 43 percent who are registered Democrats. Although this primary has voters’ attention, California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte seems eager to get past it so he can get back to what they think is most important.

“Focusing on city council races, county supervisors, electing school board members,” Brulte said. “That’s what we’re focused on.”

Brulte didn’t even mention the U.S. Senate race, where the three top Republicans in the race together captured 10 percent of the support in the last Field Poll. He knows it’s hopeless.

But while Brulte may want to focus on down-ballot races for now, everyone else is focused at the top of the ticket.