California Republicans are campaigning hard to block Democrats from reclaiming supermajorities in the state Legislature after Democrats lost seats in the 2014 midterms.
But Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s unpopularity isn’t helping their cause.
“Historically, presidential elections are challenging for Republicans in California,“ because turnout has tended to favor Democrats, says Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley). “What’s going on nationally, of course, makes it a little bit more challenging.”
Nearly 70 percent of likely California voters viewed Trump unfavorably in a Field Poll out last month – and that was before any of the presidential debates or the recent negative stories about Trump that appear to have cut into his support, particularly among women.
Mayes argues it’s a stretch to link Republican state legislative candidates to Trump, but acknowledges the national political climate could hurt GOP turnout.
“What we’ve got to be telling people is, whatever your opinions are, one way or the other, the top of the ticket, we’ve gotta get you to turn out,“ he says, “because our Assembly candidates, our state Senate candidates, need you here.”
Mayes has not endorsed Trump and says that although he will not vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he has not yet decided whether he'll vote for Trump.
“I’ve had some people say, you know, are you going to disassociate yourself with him?“ Mayes says. “And I’ve said, well, I haven’t associated myself with him.“
Senate Minority Leader Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) declined an interview request. But she was a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention this summer and has generally aligned herself with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield).
McCarthy, unlike House Speaker Paul Ryan, has supported Trump – and reiterated his support as recently as Tuesday in an interview on Fox News.
Democrats need to win just two out of seven competitive Assembly seats to retake a two-thirds supermajority. The Senate is much tougher for them: Of the four tight races, Democrats must win three.