SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A California Republican ousted as the party’s state Assembly leader after he worked with Democrats on climate change legislation said Tuesday he’s starting a group to back conservatives who no longer feel at home in the GOP.
Assemblyman Chad Mayes said the Republican Party will be doomed to irrelevance in California if it doesn’t allow compromise with Democrats and push conservative solutions to issues that matter to voters such as the environment, poverty and immigration.
“Republicans have failed to be able to reach out to average folks in California,” Mayes, of Yucca Valley, told reporters in his Capitol office. “They don’t think we care about them. They don’t think that we are working for their benefit.”
Mayes said he wants the group, called New Way California, to advance conservative policies, not merely stand in opposition to the Democrats. It’s unclear exactly how that will work; Mayes said the group is in its early stages and he didn’t offer specific plans.
Mayes has long pushed to rebrand the Republican Party and convince California voters to give its candidates a chance. He said former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the last Republican to hold the state’s highest office, is on board, along with other Republican elected officials, political consultants and activists, though he declined to identify them.
Mayes last year worked with Gov. Jerry Brown and Democrats to extend California’s cap-and-trade program, which puts a limit on carbon emissions and allows companies to buy and sell permits to release greenhouse gases. Seven Republicans joined Mayes in supporting the legislation, which included tax cuts they demanded.
The Republican base was furious and Mayes eventually gave up his leadership post.
Just 26 percent of California voters are registered Republican, while 45 percent are Democrats. Democrats control all statewide offices and had supermajorities in both legislative chambers until two Assembly Democrats resigned last month.
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside, the only other lawmaker who joined Mayes in announcing the group, said the party needs to focus on issues that are usually seen as Democratic priorities, such as early childhood education. Chavez also said he personally supports granting legal status to young immigrants living in the country illegally, which is anathema to the GOP base.
“We don’t have a healthy debate in California,” Chavez said. “California’s being controlled by one voice. And I don’t blame the Democrats. I blame the Republicans.”
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