Most of the seats were empty by the time the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate addressed their state convention on Sunday.
Check-out time at the hotel had passed. There were flights to catch. The NBA playoff game between the local Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers was just getting started.
When the second speaker, former GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro, finished speaking to the vast ballroom, most of his supporters headed for the exits, emptying the vast ballroom to a point that could no longer be ignored.
“Thank you very much for staying,” said Karen Roseberry, one of the dozen GOP candidates, all of whom face a steep uphill challenge.
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Roseberry, an Antelope Valley educator, said the sparse audience was indicative of the party’s “half-baked” effort in the Senate race.
“I know that there are people that probably did have legitimate planes to catch and things that they needed to do,” Roseberry said. “But we’ve checked out. And that is problematic.”
Democrats Kamala Harris, the state attorney general, and Loretta Sanchez, an Orange County congresswoman, dominate the contest to succeed Barbara Boxer, based on polls and fundraising, and either would be the overwhelming favorite against a Republican in November.
With the election five weeks away, the question looming over the race is whether the GOP will be shutout of the General Election. In brief remarks, Duf Sundheim, another former state GOP chairman, alluded to the optimistic slogan appearing on his campaign signs: “Imagine.”
“Looking at this room,” Sundheim said, staring into the emptiness, “I think it’s pretty easy to talk about my phrase, which is imagining the unimaginable. Because I believe we can win this race.”