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California GOP Rejects Softer Stance on Abortion, Same-Sex Marriage in Party Platform

California GOP Rejects Softer Stance on Abortion, Same-Sex Marriage in Party Platform

People attend the 2023 California GOP convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

10/5/2023

Updated: 10/10/2023

ANAHEIM, Calif.—California Republican delegates voted to scrap a proposed platform that would have softened the state party’s stance against same-sex marriage and abortion at the CAGOP’s weekend-long Fall Convention concluding on Oct. 1.
On the final day of the convention, delegates voted 903-246, or 78.6 percent, in favor of re-adopting the state party’s current platform which supports the right to life and defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Carl Brickey, president of the California Republican Assembly (CRA), which represents a resurgent conservative wing of the party, took a strong stance against the draft platform preceding the convention, saying it would forsake the founding principles of the Republic, abandon sound public policy, and betray Republican voters.
He called the platform controversy “a fight for the soul” of the California Republican Party.
Mr. Brickey warned delegates a diluted platform on abortion and same-sex marriage wouldn’t resonate with most rank-and-file Republican voters in the state or anywhere else in the country. He said the party would become “Democrat Lite” and fade into irrelevance if it softened its stance against abortion, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, leaving it up to each state to decide.
Carl Brickey, president of the California Republican Assembly, at the group's booth at the 2023 California GOP convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 30, 2023. (Brad Jones/The Epoch Times)

Carl Brickey, president of the California Republican Assembly, at the group's booth at the 2023 California GOP convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 30, 2023. (Brad Jones/The Epoch Times)

The rift over the party platform drew several political heavyweights into the fray including Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon, a prominent civil liberties attorney and Center for American Liberty CEO who ran unsuccessfully for the RNC Chair against Ronna McDaniel in January, and former state Sen. Ted Gaines, now a member on the California Board of Equalization, who led the charge.
At a meeting Sept. 30 that was closed to news media, the 100-member platform committee voted 69 to 31 in support of Ms. Dhillon’s motion to vote on re-adopting the existing 2019 platform rather than voting on the draft platform.
“Even though it was a contentious process—I worked together with a few other leaders [in] an effort to keep it the way it is,” Ms. Dhillon told The Epoch Times after the meeting.
“We had a packed room of people who are not on the platform committee loudly supporting keeping it the way it was. So there were lots of signs being waved—‘Protect our Platform’ and people with buttons, but it proceeded from beginning to end in a fairly orderly fashion.”
The “Right to Life” plank in the draft platform stated in its entirety: “We value protecting innocent life and want to see the number of abortions reduced. We support adoption as an alternative to abortion and call on lawmakers to reduce the bureaucratic burden placed on adoptive couples.”
The re-adopted 2019 platform says the state party “protects innocent life” that “begins at conception and ends at natural death.” It also condemns taxpayer-funded abortions, and those performed “as a form of birth control,” or “on minor girls without parents’ notification and consent.”
Harmeet Dhillon, an adviser to former President Donald Trump who is also a Republican delegate in California, attends the 2023 CA GOP convention of Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Harmeet Dhillon, an adviser to former President Donald Trump who is also a Republican delegate in California, attends the 2023 CA GOP convention of Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The notion put forth by proponents of the draft platform that Republicans are losing seats over the existing platform is a “fallacy,” Ms. Dhillon said.
“We’re losing seats because we don’t have candidates and constituencies. We don’t have the voter registration and we don’t have the voter turnout that the left does,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you water down the platform. It means you try harder with better candidates at a more organized ground game, and you invest in it, and we’re doing that.”
Ms. Dhillon said many Republicans pointed out that language in the draft platform sounded very similar to the words of former First Lady Hillary Clinton who was quoted in The New York Times in 2006 before announcing her first bid for the presidency as saying, “Let us unite around a common goal of reducing the amount of abortions …”
Additionally, the draft platform, which sought to cut the current platform from 14 pages to four, removed language stating marriage is between a man and a woman.
“That’s a big problem for me and other faith-based conservatives,” Ms. Dhillon said. “These are fundamental principles that sprang from natural law in my opinion.”
While pleased with the outcome of the final vote, Mr. Brickey, the CRA president, said the conservative base was “shocked and surprised” that the drafting committee “would attempt to go this far.”
“This was a tremendous fight,” he said. We are a conservative party … so it’s unfortunate that we had to waste precious time and resources on an unnecessary platform fight. I’m proud of the leadership provided by grassroots conservative activists across the state.”
Flags fly at the Westminster Civic Center in Westminster, Calif., on Sep. 3, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Flags fly at the Westminster Civic Center in Westminster, Calif., on Sep. 3, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Johanna Lassaga, Yuba County Republican Central Committee chairwoman, who was on the platform committee, told The Epoch Times she agrees with Mr. Brickey that the platform vote was a “fight for the soul” of the party.
Ms. Lassaga opposed the draft platform “because it made us look like Democrats,” and reflected a “very narrow” view of the drafting subcommittee, she said.
“I was being told by multiple people they would no longer be registering as Republicans if that was the platform we adopted,” she said.
Prior to the convention, like-minded Republicans formed a united front to stand against the draft platform, and the final vote “showed clearly” the strategy of the party’s conservative wing worked.
The Oct. 1 vote “spoke volumes” to the state party leadership, whom, Ms. Lassaga said, is “so far out of touch” with “true Republicans” that comprise the majority of the voting bloc.
“They just keep doing the same thing thinking that what they’re doing is correct. I don’t know why they don’t want to be in step with conservatism. It’s the same thing going on at the national level,” she said. “The conservatives united the base at the convention. … People are tired of what’s happening, and they’re no longer going to stand for it.”
Former president and presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CA GOP convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Former president and presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CA GOP convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Ms. Lassaga said the state party is losing elections because it hasn’t been effective in getting out a loud-and-clear message about where it stands on issues.
“So many people feel like their vote doesn’t count,” she said.
In California, with fewer voters registering as Republican to vote in the primary—many choosing to register as No Party Preference, or NPP—there are fewer volunteers getting involved in the groundwork and campaigning it takes to win elections, Ms. Lassaga said.
While one “school of thought” within the party contends people are leaving the party because it opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, the majority disagrees, she said.
“They’re leaving because we’re not standing up for what we believe in. We’re kowtowing to everything that the Democrats are doing,” she said.
If the saying, “As California goes, so goes the nation,” holds true, then it’s even more important for conservatives in the state to hold the line on core values in the platform, she suggested.
“If we’re going to go soft on it, does that mean that the rest of the states are too? It’s imperative that we take a stand,” she said. “We’ve got to.”
The draft platform also removed a section on election integrity even though the CAGOP fundraised on that issue, she said.
Jennye Bigelow, a CRA vice-president, told The Epoch Times the overwhelming rejection of the draft platform should serve as a “wake-up call” to the state party leadership which, she said, has “hijacked the party” away from its core values.
“They’re out of touch,” she said. “The issue is that the state party doesn’t usually represent what Republican voters want so this is a huge victory and proves that the select few within the California GOP leadership do not represent the majority of Republicans.”
Jennye Bigelow, a California Republican Assembly vice-president, in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Sept. 9, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Jennye Bigelow, a California Republican Assembly vice-president, in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Sept. 9, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Ms. Bigelow applauded the ousting of California Rep. Kevin McCarthy as U.S. House Speaker on Oct. 3, saying it brings the GOP “one step closer to true representation of the people.”
McCarthy, she said, “broke every promise he made,” while Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who opposed McCarthy’s speakership, “followed through” on his.
The large crowd at former President Donald Trump’s speech at the convention Sept. 29 compared to much smaller audiences for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, multi-millionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) shows the grassroots majority of the Republican base in California is pro-Trump and America First, she said.
Mr. Trump is the clear front-runner in the GOP primaries race according to eight recent polls conducted between Aug. 30 and Oct. 1. Those polls show him steadily climbing from 50 percent to more than 60 percent of the Republican vote. The Real Clear Politics average shows he is leading all other candidates by 43 percent.
Ms. Bigelow said she is disappointed the CAGOP leadership “would waste their time” on fundamental changes to the platform instead of focusing on “real issues” such as election integrity.
The party leadership’s decision not to survey all Republican voters in the state to ask what they want before drafting the proposed platform is “irresponsible,” she said.
California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson told The Epoch Times before the convention that no polls or surveys of Republican voters were conducted on the proposed platform draft.
Jessica Millan Patterson speaks in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 23, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Jessica Millan Patterson speaks in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 23, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

While opinions differ on the draft platform, she said the party remains united against Democrats.
“Wyoming has a one-page platform, Connecticut doesn’t even have a platform, so I’m really grateful that our California Republican Party has a process, and that we’re working through that process to come up with the best document for California Republicans,” Ms. Patterson said.
In response to an inquiry about widespread allegations the party leadership is out of step with members, CAGOP spokeswoman Ashley Yanez echoed the same message about unity.
“Our delegates made the best decision on where they believe our platform should be,” she said in a text message to The Epoch Times on Oct. 2. “We walked away from Sunday’s General Session more united as California Republicans.”
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Brad Jones

Brad Jones

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Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

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