Capitol Alert

Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger push for a ‘new way’ in California

California Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes answers questions from the media at the Capitol on Jan. 24, 2017.
California Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes answers questions from the media at the Capitol on Jan. 24, 2017. Los Angeles Times

Pushed out by party activists last summer for negotiating with Democrats on a climate change program, former Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes is doubling down on his fight to reshape the California GOP – with a key assist from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mayes announced Tuesday the formation of New Way California, an initiative that aims to expand the appeal of Republican policies and reverse the party’s declining prospects in the state. Republicans, who now make up just a quarter of registered voters in California, have not won a statewide election in more than a decade and hold fewer than one-third of the seats in both houses of the Legislature.

“There really is one-party rule here in California,” Mayes said at a press conference. “Republicans have failed to be able to reach out to average folks in California. They don’t think that we care about them, they don’t think that we are working for their benefit.”

Mayes, who represents portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, said he considers himself a conservative and remains committed to bedrock Republican principles of lower taxes and smaller government. But he believes the California GOP needs to distinguish itself from the national party by moving away from divisive positions that have left many minorities, women and young people feeling excluded from its ranks.

While light on details about future activities, Mayes said New Way will try to bring more voters into the Republican Party by promoting “pragmatic conservative” solutions to issues that Californians already care about, such as protecting the environment, investing in education and addressing poverty. Though the group does not plan to recruit candidates, it will develop policy platforms and get involved in state elections through voter outreach, particularly to the growing number of registered independents.

“There’s a place in California for folks that feel disaffected by both the Democrats and the current Republican Party,” Mayes said.

Schwarzenegger, California’s highest-profile Republican figure and one of the last to win statewide in 2006, is already on board. His chief of staff, Daniel Ketchell, said Schwarzenegger became a fan of Mayes last year as Mayes worked to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program.

“Arnold’s had longstanding concerns about the Republican Party in California,” Ketchell said, pointing to Schwarzenegger’s speech at the 2007 state convention in which he bemoaned that it was “dying at the box office.” “He’s committed to helping Chad find a way to reinvigorate the party so it can help all Californians.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff