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‘Never Trump’ Republicans Weigh Whether To Start New Political Party In California

Katie Orr, Capital Public Radio

Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen speaks to the Sacramento Press Club on Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Katie Orr, Capital Public Radio

The California Republican Party is facing an existential crisis after Democrats throttled the GOP in the midterm election. Now, some prominent “Never Trump” Republicans are actively debating whether to start a new political party.

“I think it’s yet to be seen whether it’s a rebuilding of a Republican Party or whether it’s a new party,” former Assembly Republican Leader and California GOP vice-chair Kristin Olsen told Capital Public Radio last week. “The jury’s still out on that.”

Democrats swept all of California’s statewide offices and knocked Republican incumbents out of Congress and the state Legislature. In doing so, Democrats reduced the GOP to just seven or eight of California’s 53 House seats, with one congressional race still too-close-to-call. They also regained the supermajority they lost in the state Senate after the June recall election of Democratic Sen. Josh Newman, and expanded their supermajority in the state Assembly.

No statewide GOP candidate finished with even 40 percent of the vote.

Olsen says the California GOP was already in trouble. Now, thanks to President Trump, she argues it’s practically extinct.

“I believe it’s not only toxic, but it’s dead in California. And I believe that death had to occur if there’s any opportunity to revive a viable Republican Party in the future for our state,” Olsen said.

Listen to Olsen’s interview with NPR’s Audie Cornish on All Things Considered

If not, she added, “then we do need to look at whether it’s possible to create a third party.”

Olsen sits on the board of New Way California, one of many groups weighing the GOP’s future in the state. She acknowledges that previous efforts to start a third party have repeatedly failed.

“I think the opportunity here is, we’re at a unique time in history where people are hungry for something different than the two disparate parties are providing,” she said. “And two, if it can be broader than any one individual or one particular issue.”

Olsen says New Way is conducting research, focus groups and data discovery to see if a third party could be viable in California.

Another New Way board member, Republican consultant Cassandra Pye, says California needs checks and balances to prevent Democrats from overreaching.

“It would take a lot for me to leave the GOP and at the moment there’s no viable alternative,” she said. “But I am keeping active watch.”

But one prominent Republican on the New Way board might not be ready to leave the party.

“I’m not leaving,” former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger posted on Reddit back in early July. “I choose to stay and fight.”

Schwarzenegger wrote that his party is “going through a wacky period,” but that he’ll work to change the GOP from within.

“If somebody breaks into your house and eats all of your food, you don’t just move out and leave them the house. You reclaim it,” he said. “And believe me, there will be a reclaiming.”

As for that existing “Grand Old Party”?

“As [California GOP] Chairman [Jim] Brulte has stated many times,” said California Republican Party spokesman Matt Fleming, “any group that wants to elect more Republicans is good with us.”

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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