California GOP endorses 88 candidates – none appear on sample ballots

When Sally Ertl last week opened her sample ballot for the June 3 primary election, she saw party endorsements from California Democrats, Greens, American Independents and Peace and Freedom officials – but not Republicans.

“I thought, what a terrible mistake they made,” said Ertl, 68, of Orangevale. “Then I figured the Democrats must have paid someone off to not put the Republicans in there. In my mind, I thought this is totally another corruption that is going on in this state.”

The real answer is part strategic, part bureaucratic and considerably less nefarious.

The California Republican Party generally does not endorse candidates in races in which more than one Republican is running. It could have turned in the names of Republican candidates who had no GOP opponents, but the timing was problematic, party Chairman Jim Brulte said.

That’s because the deadline to submit endorsements was two weeks before the secretary of state released its list of certified candidates, making it difficult for party officials to know whether a candidate was truly the only Republican in a given race. The California Democratic Party, which does endorse in races with more than one Democrat, requires candidates to declare for the endorsement months before the secretary of state’s deadline.

Brulte, a former state senator, said he has seen too many party leaders get endorsements wrong “again, again and again.” He said they often do more harm than good by fracturing party unity.

“The California Republican Party believes that Republican voters, not party bosses, should determine endorsements,” Brulte said in an interview. “Party bosses, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, in most cases lack the sound judgment that Republican voters collectively have.”

The party acknowledged the confusion on Monday and posted a statement on its website. “Republican voters should look for candidates who are Republicans. If it is a contested race, we encourage voters to make an informed decision between the two or more Republicans running.”

Some 88 Republicans, including incumbents, are running without intraparty challengers and are deemed endorsed. Statewide, there’s Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, who is challenging Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, and Greg Conlon, a candidate for state treasurer.

Conlon, a certified public accountant and veteran, said he doesn’t mind not appearing as a GOP-backed candidate in sample ballots sent to more than 17 million registered voters. Party leaders encouraged him to run, so he trusts their judgment, Conlon said.

“It would have been nice if they had done it, but I understand that it was a policy decision we made,” he said.

Michael Schroeder, a former state party chairman, helped lead an unsuccessful push for the Republican Party to permanently join Democrats and other parties in establishing a regular pre-primary endorsement process.

“The party ought to speak up and say ‘here is who we support,’ and then voters can process that information or not,” Schroeder said.

The endorsement omissions are not sitting well with Ertl, whose sample ballot lists several Republicans endorsed by the American Independent Party, a far-right group.

In past elections, Ertl said, she voted for a handful of GOP candidates she preferred and then relied on the party’s picks in the remainder of the races.

“It’s a shame that on this whole page there is not a Republican Party,” she said. “I don’t like that at all. They are hurting the voters.”

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