CA GOP Chairwoman Jessica Patterson with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the CA GOP 2023 convention in Sacramento, Calif., on March 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
With the national media spotlight turning westward as former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis head to the California Republican Party’s fall convention, debate has focused on proposed changes to the state party platform.
Critics of the draft platform, which shortens the current version from 14 pages to four, say the proposed changes take a softer stance against abortion and same-sex marriage and dilute conservative values.
Party delegates will vote on the final platform at the party’s fall convention in Anaheim from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, when the top Republican presidential candidates, including President Trump and Mr. DeSantis, will take the stage at separate events.
President Trump is slated to speak at a luncheon at the convention on Sept. 29, while Mr. DeSantis is scheduled for an evening dinner the same day. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy are also scheduled to speak at the weekend-long event.
President Trump, the clear front-runner ahead of the GOP primaries, according to recent polls
, is not expected to participate in a debate with other Republican candidates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. on Sept. 27. A Reuters/Ispos poll conducted from Sept. 8 to 14 puts President Trump at 37 percentage points ahead of Mr. DeSantis, his closest rival.
that President Trump’s campaign has confirmed he will skip the second GOP primary debate to give a competing speech the same night in Detroit.
Republican presidential candidates (L–R), former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wis., on Aug. 23, 2023. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
‘Soul of the California Republican Party’
The California Republican Assembly (CRA), which represents the conservative wing of the party and generally favors America First candidates, objects to the planned platform changes, CRA President Carl Brickey said.
“This is a fight for the soul of the California Republican Party,” he told The Epoch Times. “If we remove Republican principles from our party platform such as the right to life, the party will be forsaking the founding principles of our republic, it will be abandoning sound public policy, and it will be betraying Republican voters.”
Mr. Brickey said he is concerned that diluted policies on abortion and same-sex marriage won’t resonate with most rank-and-file Republican voters in the state or anywhere else in the country and would deepen the rifts between members of the state party leadership and its conservative members.
“Instead of a conservative alternative to the failed principles and policies of the Democratic Party, the California Republican Party will become merely an echo of the Democrats and will become in effect Democrat Lite,” he said.
The party, he said, would then “fade into irrelevance.”
It would be “irresponsible” for the party to soften its stance at a time when each state is now responsible for its own abortion laws since the U.S Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, Mr. Brickey said.
“It’s a dereliction of duty to just merely walk away from this, especially when the overwhelming, vast majority of our voters are pro-life,” he said. “Unfortunately, our party right now is not really a democratic party with a small ‘d.’ We have a narrow group of people who are leading it ... in opposition to the rank-and-file membership.
The “Right to Life” plank in the draft platform states 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.”
By comparison, the existing party platform states clearly in bold type: “The California Republican Party is the party that protects innocent life because we believe life 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.”
Pro-life demonstrators gather at the California state capitol building in Sacramento on April 19, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The drafting committee, a subcommittee of the platform committee, received more than a dozen other proposed platforms and “a plethora” of suggested amendments to the existing platform, but only one was selected as a base platform, he said.
The draft platform doesn’t go far enough to protect the right to life, Mr. Brickey suggested.
Most Republicans, “even in a place like California,” overwhelmingly reject the Democratic Party’s push for late-term, partial-birth, sex-selection abortions, he said.
Gina Gleason, executive director of Real Impact Ministry at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, told The Epoch Times that “the party is fractured.”
If state delegates change the party’s pro-life stance or remove language from the platform that currently states marriage is between a man and a woman, evangelical Christians, Catholics, and other people of faith “will leave the Republican Party in droves,” Ms. Gleason said.
“I would hate to see that happen, but I have no doubt that it will,” she said.
Referring to Assembly Bill 2223
, authored by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), she called Democrats “the party of abortion.”
“Last year, they denied that included infanticide, but then why did they strike that language that pertains to infanticide out of the bill?” she asked. “We need conservative Republicans to push back against the Democrat leadership, and the Republican leadership is not helping us very much.”
Eventually, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an amended version of AB 2223 into law without the perinatal language that critics said would have decriminalized infanticide for seven days after the birth of the child.
The bill as it was initially written would have removed the accountability of a mother responsible for “miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, or perinatal death.” Perinatal was described in the bill analysis as generally between 22 weeks of pregnancy and seven days after birth.
“As parents experience traumatic situations, they should be supported as they mourn, not criminalized,” Ms. Wicks said at an Assembly health committee hearing
on April 19.
A Planned Parenthood location in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
In a newsletter, the Sacramento Republican Assembly (SRA), a local chapter of the CRA, stated the draft platform “turns its back on God” and the faith-based community.
The SRA also expressed concern the proposed revisions eliminate the plank on Election Integrity and “decouples itself” from the Republican National Committee (RNC) platform.
While the SRA says in the email that the platform is “perhaps” dated, it states that revising it shouldn’t mean abandoning the party’s core values and that the draft is “a far cry from“ the values the assembly has ”always treasured and shared.”
Notably absent from the platform is any mention of the parental revolt against the Democrat push for “gender-affirming care” and controversial state polices that allow social gender transitions of children at school without parental knowledge or consent. However, the draft platform’s education segment supports parental rights.
“The parent-child relationship must be respected with parents/caregivers being in control of every decision made regarding their child,” the draft platform states.
A family section in the draft reads: “Religious institutions play a pivotal role in strengthening both traditional marriages and families,” omitting language in the existing platform that clearly defines marriage “as a union between one man and one woman.”
The draft also omits language alluding to same-sex marriage and stating the party’s opposition to any court ruling that would “coerce a church or religious institution into performing marriages that their faith does not recognize.”
Uniting the Party
Despite dissenting views, California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said Republicans stand united against the Democratic Party platform.
The changes were proposed by the drafting committee.
When asked whether any polling or surveys were conducted to determine what rank-and-file members want to see in the party platform or whether the proposed changes came from the elected drafting committee, Ms. Patterson said: “It’s all the committee. I don’t spend money on polling like that. I poll in races.”
“No matter how this platform ends up ... we have specific core principles, ideals, and values, and none of that will change. I think that our party is united,” she said.
Because the GOP is “a coalition party,” she said, no two Republicans will agree on every issue.
CA GOP Chairwoman Jessica Patterson (L) at the CA GOP 2023 convention in Sacramento, Calif., on March 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
“On the Democrat side, you don’t get that type of dissension. You either fall in line or you’re canceled. So, I’m proud of the Republican Party and the fact that we are a coalition party, and that we have differing ideas,” she said.
Ms. Patterson, who has served as chairwoman since 2019, vowed to lead the party the way she said she always has, steering Republicans toward common ground and staying “focused on the things that [Republicans] can agree on.”
“The Republican Party will unite on its own, and we will all be behind our Republican nominee,” she said. “What we’re having is a spirited primary, and when it’s an open seat, that’s exactly what it should be.”
She downplayed friction between President Trump and Mr. DeSantis, saying the Florida governor has already signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee and that she expects that President Trump will do the same.
With 169 delegates up for grabs—the most of any state—Ms. Patterson said California will play a pivotal role in deciding who will become the next Republican nominee.
Biden or Newsom?
Regarding whether President Joe Biden will be on the ballot in 2024, she said: “I think Newsom is running for president right now. I don’t know what the circumstance will be, but everything from his Sean Hannity interview to his ‘Meet the Press’ interview ... are brushback pitches to Kamala Harris. He’s telling her: ‘You are not going to be next. It is going to be me.’”
Even though one would assume the incumbent Democratic president would be on the ballot, Mr. Brickey said he’s “not so sure.”
“There is still the chance that we could see a different nominee for the Democrats. There’s a lot of disillusionment on the Democrat side,” he said. “It’s going to come down to whether they think they can win with him or not.”
Meanwhile, Axios has reported that according to President Biden’s campaign advisers, the president’s reelection campaign is “deploying” Mr. Newsom to Simi Valley for the Republican debate.
“It’s the latest example of Biden’s increasingly warm relationship with Newsom after earlier tensions between the two—and comes as the California governor continues to build his national profile,” Axios reports. “The DNC also is hiring a plane to fly over Southern California reading ‘2024 GOP: A Race for the Extreme MAGA Base.’”
But Mr. Newsom told The New York Times earlier this month that it’s time for Democrats to back President Biden: “The train has left the station. ... We’re all in. Stop talking. He’s not going anywhere. It’s time for all of us to get on the train and buck up.”
Mr. Newsom’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.