Abel Maldonado

Viewpoints: There is reason for optimism among California Republicans

Published: Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 11A

The California dream has been good to my family. My father came here nearly 50 years ago with little more than the shirt on his back. As a child I remember having to share a hamburger with my siblings for a meal because we couldn't afford anything more. While some might view that as hardship, we remained hopeful, knowing sacrifice was required to achieve the California dream.

Through hard work and a bit of luck, we were able to grow a half-acre of strawberries into a business that now employs more than 250 people.

We have been blessed, but I will never forget the early days. Today, too many Californians continue to live paycheck to paycheck, as my family did, and are finding that the path to living the California dream has become harder, not easier.

As a proud Californian, I know that our state can once again be a place where those opportunities and dreams are born. And as a Republican, I am optimistic that our party can unite in its belief that California must be a place where entrepreneurs can start and grow businesses, where government helps the economy create jobs rather than hinders them, and where every child can obtain a great education. But in order to help realize that dream, Republicans have to govern, and in order to govern, we first have to win at the polls.

Let's not kid ourselves, our party has been flailing for a long time – it wasn't just this one election cycle. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was right more than five years ago when he said that Republicans were "dying at the box office." Today, Republican registration in our state has dropped to the lowest level ever, and Democrats control both houses of the Legislature.

In spite of this, I'm optimistic about the future of the Republican Party and our state because the individuals seeking to lead the Republican Party understand that success requires more than just revised talking points and that we need to move past the politics of division and subtraction.

As a party we must go back to the basics and build real relationships with all Californians. This most basic of principles will grow our party for generations to come.

Our state's population is changing. Just look at the data. Over the past two decades California has added 3.5 million new voters, and 2 million of them are Latino. Another 1 million are Asian American. It's predicted that by the end of 2013, Latinos will take over as California's single-largest ethnic group, at 40 percent of the population. Plus, fewer than one in five of those Latinos are over the age of 50, so the state is also getting younger. As Republicans we have to change, too. We have to change how and who we talk to.

It's great news that the state party appears poised to elect Jim Brulte as chairman. He's the kind of no-nonsense, pragmatic leader capable of instilling confidence and building a functioning statewide operation. However, no one man can turn the party around on his own. He needs Republicans throughout the state – our diverse group of local elected officials, business leaders and activists – to help carry the message. In order to grow our ranks, we need to be talking about the things that unite Californians:

• We believe that every child deserves a great education because that's the most powerful way to put every American on equal ground, able to compete and succeed. I'm inspired by experiments like the the Equity Project Charter School in New York City, which is paying $125,000 a year to lure "master teachers" into its classrooms; increased salaries are balanced against true accountability measures.

• We also believe that nothing is more powerful when it comes to our economy and our quality of life than a good-paying job. State government needs to do its part to encourage job growth and to support businesses and industries that create jobs on their own. We should strive to make it our daily focus to support entrepreneurs like those in Silicon Valley and remove burdens that prevent businesses from expanding in our state.

• Government should continue to review its own laws and regulations, to ensure they keep up with 21st century technologies and realities. In the span of time it takes Apple to develop five new generations of iPhone, the state is still years behind in updating its own antiquated computer systems and programs. Our government can always be more efficient. That doesn't always mean making it smaller, but it certainly means making it work better for all Californians.

• Additionally, we all know that now is the time to stop shying away from the issue of immigration. We have almost 12 million people in America who don't have documentation, but who are working, and who have families – we need a temporary working permit with an earned path to citizenship.

I'm confident that if we focus and lead on good policy and good ideas, we'll be able to make a positive difference in people's lives, and by doing so we'll grow our Republican Party to reflect our state's changing population.

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