- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Republicans in California’s heavily Democratic 35th Congressional District are a lonely lot, represented in the House by one of the nation’s most liberal members, Maxine Waters.

But, Republican voters in South Central are being treated like celebrities in the presidential primary campaign, despite numbering only 15 percent of the area’s registered voters.

California Republicans have instituted new rules for awarding delegates to their 2008 national nominating convention, prompting their party’s presidential candidates to pursue a counterintuitive strategy of seeking Republican votes in Democratic strongholds like Mrs. Waters’ district. They are preparing to barrage the Republican voters with phone calls and mailings.

Another target: the 34,000 Republicans in San Francisco’s 8th Congressional District, represented by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the country’s top-ranking Democrat.

The payoff — three convention delegates per district — is the same the candidates would receive if they prevail in heavily Republican districts, but the cost and energy needed to compete in the Democratic districts is much less than a more widespread media campaign.

“It’s a lot easier to communicate with individuals when you need only 8,000 votes to win that area, versus when you might need 80,000 or 90,000 votes to win,” said Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party.

Leavening the primary battle are the state’s liberal absentee-voting rules. Ballots will begin arriving in the mail the first week of January, just as Iowa and New Hampshire kick off the nominating process. Wins in the early voting states could produce a bandwagon effect when California’s votes are tallied following the Feb. 5 primary.

Campaign aides project as many as 20 percent of the ballots will be returned the first week after they are mailed.

“It’s not about carrying all the momentum through the 5th, but if you come out well from Iowa, that helps you in a real way here,” said Rob Stutzman, a top California adviser for Republican Mitt Romney.

In the past, the California Republicans awarded convention delegates on a winner-take-all basis. The candidate getting the most votes statewide got all the state’s delegates.

This election cycle, the party changed to apportionment by congressional district. Some 170 convention delegates are up for grabs in the February primary: three to the winner in each of the state’s 53 congressional districts, for a total of 159; and 11 on an at-large basis for the top vote-getter in the state. Another three convention delegates will be top party leaders unpledged to any candidate.

Democrats follow a more convoluted program of apportioning delegates based on the specific congressional district won.

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