Capitol Alert

Democrats are ‘the enemy’: California GOP elects leader less focused on Trump

California’s Republican Party took a small step on Sunday in an effort to regain political power, selecting a person to lead the party who is less vocally supportive of President Donald Trump.

Backed by prominent lawmakers, whom opponents labeled as “the establishment,” Jessica Patterson fended off aggressive challenges from devout Trump supporters.

“We’re going to be out there and picking up seats and working hard,” Patterson said. “You’re going to see a really, really sharp change in the Republican Party.”

With her win, Patterson became the first woman to lead the party. Throughout her candidacy for chair, she labeled Democrats as “the enemy” and called on Republicans to unite to oppose progressive policies.

“Today, let’s serve notice to the Democrats in California that we are back and ready to deliver on the Republican comeback,” Patterson said.

Former Assemblyman and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen fell short of the 597 votes necessary to win, as did longtime party activist Steve Frank. The two candidates formed an unsuccessful alliance against Patterson and failed to secure a combined majority support. Allen received 31 percent support, while Frank got 15 percent.

It was the first competitive race in over a decade, according to Jim Brulte, the party’s outgoing chairman.

In a push for unity, Patterson called on Allen and Frank to lead a voter registration task force.

“It was not so long ago California prospered under Republican leadership, and if we work together, it won’t be long until we do it again,” Patterson said.

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Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.