A group of moderate Republicans, including former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, called Tuesday on elected GOP leaders in California to focus less on ideology and more on getting things done to restore their shrinking numbers in the state.
Speaking at the New Way California Summit in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger said he’s long warned his fellow Republicans to embrace topics like the environment and health care, and to work across the aisle.
“That was common sense stuff,” he told a sparse crowd at the Crest Theatre. “But the Republicans were nowhere to be found in those areas and that’s why they lost so many members and the votes. And that’s why in 2007 when I gave the speech at the Republican convention, I said ‘You guys are dying at the box office.”’
Republicans hold no statewide constitutional offices. They constitute barely a quarter of state legislative seats and just seven of California’s 53 members of Congress.
Last year, the number of voters registered as no party preference overtook those registered as Republicans. Both groups trail registered Democrats by a wide margin.
Stanislaus County Supervisor Kristin Olsen, a former Republican assembly leader, said the growth of unaffiliated voters shows people are “disillusioned” with traditional political parties and want something different.
Last year, Republicans and Democrats both saw their ranks shrink in California. Just under 44 percent of registered voters were Democrats, 27 percent were unaffiliated and 25 percent were Republicans, according to the state figures.
New Way California started a year ago as a way for moderate Republicans to try to rebuild the state’s GOP party.
Organizers said Republicans need to drop the divisive approach that has alienated key voting blocs, such as Latinos — the state’s largest ethnic group.
Schwarzenegger said after his speech that Republicans should also focus on solutions to the state’s growing income inequality.
“It is outrageous of how far people are falling behind,” Schwarzenegger said. “The people in the lower end, they are not catching up. They are falling way behind. And I think we have to really thoughtfully look at that issue and say: ‘How do we go and change that?’”