Capitol Alert

Devin Nunes offers advice to California GOP: ‘We have to be willing to lose’

Rep. Devin Nunes speaks to the California Republican Party activists at their annual spring convention in Sacramento on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.
Rep. Devin Nunes speaks to the California Republican Party activists at their annual spring convention in Sacramento on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. The Sacramento Bee

Rep. Devin Nunes, finding his voice as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team, told fellow California Republicans Saturday that the party can chart its way back to relevancy by repeatedly sponsoring reform-minded ballot measures.

Nunes, addressing a dinner of party activists in Sacramento, said while the state GOP has a “marketing problem” that must be solved to attract new members into its ranks, the party also needs to change policies.

To that end, he suggested GOP-backed initiatives to redirect high-speed rail money into water storage such as dams, drill for more oil off the coast, eliminate the state’s income tax, create a part-time or unicameral Legislature and change how public-sector union dues are collected. He wants the declining party to bankroll the same five measures every two years, presumably until they pass.

“We have to be willing to lose,” the Visalia lawmaker said.

The effectiveness of such a statewide strategy is debatable.

In 2005, Republican then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to reshape the state with a slate of measures – Propositions 73, 74, 76 and 77. But the measures, including efforts to curb state spending, rein in public employee union political outlays and increase how long it takes for public school teachers to win tenure, all failed spectacularly, and together awakened the sleeping giant of organized labor.

Nunes said he’s aware of the difficulties of passage in deep-blue California, given the powerful interests that would line up to tear into his ideas, not to mention the financial cost to the state of striking the income tax, for example.

But he insisted Republicans are left with few other choices, offering that the policy changes he wants to see enacted cannot be accomplished in the Democratic-dominated Legislature.

He pointed to the handful of ballot successes spearheaded and financed by wealthy GOP mega-donor Charles Munger, Jr., including measures to turnover the redrawing of legislative districts to an independent panel and require that the top-two primary finishers, regardless of party, advance to the runoff.

Speaking with reporters after the speech, Nunes said the strategy would “show people in California what we (Republicans) actually stand for.

“Right now, it’s very difficult for us to get our message across,” he added, “because we are drowned out by” public-employee union money and the media.

Christopher Cadago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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