BURLINGAME – Donald Trump had come and gone. Ted Cruz, too. And at a poolside prayer breakfast in a liberal state, a withering Republican Party looked for inspiration Sunday from a higher power.
“God is at work in California, my friends,” Ralph Reed, the Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman and former director of the Christian Coalition, said on the final day of the state party’s convention outside San Francisco. “The Holy Spirit is not done with what he wants to do with this state.”
For California Republicans, the intervention required is significant. Following years of decline, no Republican holds statewide office and party registration has fallen below 28 percent.
Reed acknowledged that “sometimes you sit here and you feel like a lost colony, you know, as conservatives and Christians in the state of California.”
Reed slung a glancing blow at the self-funding candidates Republicans have put up for statewide office in recent years – though he insisted it was not a criticism – saying, “You can’t win with money and media … You’re going to have to build a grassroots party.”
But he recalled that Georgia, where he was state party chairman in the early 2000s, was also once a Democratic state. He said California Republicans, too, could rise.
The demographic and political forces that turned Georgia red differ sharply from the winds of California. In Georgia, evangelical white voters abandoned the Democratic Party in favor of the GOP. In California, the Republican Party faded as the state’s electorate became younger and more diverse.
Reed, a former lobbyist, once enjoyed greater prominence in Washington, D.C. But he was damaged by his ties to Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist, and fell short in his bid for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2006.
Reed heaped praise on California, acknowledging its economic success “in spite of the failed policies out of Sacramento.” Of those policies – and the state Democratic Party’s dominance – Reed suggested he could help.
“I want a renaissance for the state of California, and I want California to be the model for the nation again,” he said. “Amen, so let’s do it.”