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New California GOP Chairman to delegates: 'We have a message problem, folks'

March 20, 2011 |  4:10 pm

Incoming California Republican Chairman Tom Del Beccaro officially took the gavel at his party’s convention Sunday, vowing to rebuild and to refute the “naysayers” who question the state party’s relevance after it failed to win a single statewide office last November.

Acknowledging the losses last fall -- at a time when Republicans made major gains across the rest of the country -- Del Beccaro said he was embarking on a 20-city tour to try to reach California voters of all persuasions. 

“We have a message problem, folks,” Del Beccaro told delegates Sunday on the final day of their convention in downtown Sacramento.

The former party vice chairman, who is from Lafayette in Contra Costa County, estimated that the party only reached about a fifth of California voters in recent election cycles and said it was illogical “for us to expect to persuade the majority of voters every two or four years, if we are only talking to small subset of voters.” 

When asked how the party failed to reach voters after its gubernatorial nominee, Meg Whitman, spent nearly $180 million, Del Beccaro said Republicans had failed to reach out to a broad group of voters for a decade and could not fix that problem in one cycle.

“We do not pay enough attention to our next generation, we are not talking to enough minority voters, we are not talking to enough independents and we are not even talking to enough Democrats,” Del Beccaro said to applause. “Quite frankly, we have trapped ourselves into talking to the converted instead of inspiring a new generation of voters.”

For years Republicans have committed to talking to a broader group of voters. But election results have shown that many Californians disagree with their policies--particularly on social issues and immigration--and those have not changed.

In a new effort to play offense rather than defense, Del Beccaro said the party would hold news conferences twice a month to remind voters that Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown promised to create half a million new jobs in California. The party launched a new website Sunday under the banner: “Where are the jobs Jerry Brown?”

Del Beccaro noted that even though the party lost recent races, voters “keep voting for our ideas.” Last fall, voters sided with Republicans on some tax-related ballot initiatives, including one that requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature for new fees.

In the months ahead, he said Republicans should be connecting with voters about salient economic issues, including taxes, boosting job growth, stemming home foreclosures and the everyday struggles of Californians to make ends meet.

“We need a very focused message if we are going to reach these people and we do not have that focused message,” he said, “and that is something we need to work on going forward.”

-- Maeve Reston in Sacramento

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