California Republicans are on the cusp of wiping away Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature. But even in victory there was some dissension at the top.
Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, the incoming Assembly GOP leader, chafed at the decision by California Republican Party Chair Jim Brulte to target Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced.
The first Republican spending in the district showed up Oct. 7. Gray's fundraising began to surge within days, and outside, pro-Gray groups began pouring in money supporting Gray and opposing his Republican opponent, Jack M. Mobley Jr.
Olsen said she and other Assembly GOP leaders had no say in the spending targeting Gray and supporting Mobley. She suggested she disagreed with the decision to target her next-door colleague with about $830,000 in spending. Gray led by 2,300 votes after Election Day.
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“We had no expectation that Brulte was going to play in that race,” Olsen told The Bee Wednesday. “It came as quite a shock and a surprise. And we see what the results were.”
“(Gray’s district) was not a seat that we had as legislative leaders targeted to play in,” Olsen added, saying the decision had long ago been made to seek Assembly districts 36 (Antelope Valley), 65 (Orange County), 16 (East Bay Area) and 66 (Torrance). “It was never part of the plan. And we have said we have to stick to the plan.”
Brulte defended the decision to go after Gray, as well as the GOP’s choice to spend money on behalf of Republican Mario Guerra against Democrat Tony Mendoza in a redrawn district held by disgraced Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, where Democrats maintain a lopsided advantage in registered voters.
“We almost took out a fourth incumbent in an area where Republicans had been discouraged because of the lack of state party involvement,” he said. “Wherever there are candidates who are not campaigning and believe their race is over before any votes are counted, we may give them an unpleasant surprise.”
Without getting into the party’s eight-year plan to pickup Democratic seats, Brulte noted that the GOP was close to flipping even more districts, including the Whittier-based 57th held by freshman Democrat Ian Calderon, a nephew of the outgoing senator.
“This is how parties who want to win do it,” he said. “And the Republican Party in California, working with our partners, want to win.”
Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.