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GOP fight brews in California

Inside the Golden State political arena
Sep 28, 2023 View in browser

By Lara Korte and Dustin Gardiner

Supporters of Donald Trump demonstrate at the entrance of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library prior to the second 2024 Republican presidential primary debate in Simi Valley, Calif., on Sept. 27, 2023. | Philip Cheung for POLITICO

DRIVING THE DAY: This morning we’re keeping an eye on Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is in Los Angeles and expected to sign legislation that will “boost wages and support workers.” Expect some major news around 10 a.m.

THE BUZZ — California Republicans are heading into a critical weekend already divided.

The state party gets a chance to recalibrate its mission every four years. This year, with five House seats on the line, moderates are proposing to gut the platform — abandoning what some see as pillars of conservatism, including the opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

It is not going over well with the more conservative base of the party.

“Instead of converting people by our superior positions, we’re simply trying to make ourselves look more like the other side,” California RNC National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon said in an interview.“I don’t spend my days and nights and weekends working for this party in order to be a Democrat-light.”

Delegates will have a chance to weigh in on the subject this weekend, when they gather in Anaheim for their fall convention. Proponents of the draft platform, including Log Cabin Republicans leader Charles Moran, say the party needs to show its flexibility in order to recruit independent voters and disaffected Democrats.

It’s a sign that some in the party are feeling hamstrung by national GOP talking points — which don’t play in many parts of California and, in the worst-case scenarios, could hurt candidates in competitive districts.

"This is a tremendously diverse state in terms of political positioning,” said Timothy O’Reilly, chair of the Los Angeles County Republican Party and head of the platform drafting committee. Issues that play well in parts of Northern California “don't really sell very well when you get into downtown San Francisco, and vice-versa,” he added.

Both sides agree that voters rarely read the party platform, and changing it will have little bearing how an individual fills out their ballot.

But Dhillon argues that a moderate platform will alienate the most passionate and conservative members of the party who are often the ones knocking on doors, collecting ballots and working to register voters.

“It was a well-intentioned effort to gain a bigger market share,” Dhillon said of the draft platform. “But it is the wrong way to do that, and it will backfire.”

HAPPY THURSDAY. Thanks for waking up with Playbook. We know you were all up late watching the GOP debate in Simi Valley. More on that below.

PLAYBOOK TIP LINE — What other bills do you expect Newsom to sign? Or veto? Give us a ring or drop us a line.

Now you can text us at ‪916-562-0685‬‪ — save it as “CA Playbook” in your contacts now.

Or drop us a line at [email protected] and [email protected], or on Twitter —@DustinGardiner and @Lara_Korte 

WHERE’S GAVIN? In L.A to sign labor-related bills.


Omar Navarro (L) at a protest in Los Angeles in 2017. | AFP via Getty Images

CAMPAIGN CASH —  Omar Navarro, a perennial Republican candidate for Congress, was indicted Wednesday on charges that he funneled campaign cash to himself. Navarro unsuccessfully ran against Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, of south Los Angeles County, in four consecutive elections.

Federal prosecutors allege, in a 43-count grand jury indictment, that Navarro conspired to misuse campaign funds by repeatedly writing checks to his mother and a friend, whom he directed to return the money back to him for personal use. Prosecutors say Navarro deposited over $100,000 into his bank accounts when he had no other source of income, aside from the campaign. Navarro is also accused of using campaign funds for personal expenses, including vacations to Las Vegas and wine country and to hire two defense attorneys.

Navarro was already in state custody on unrelated charges, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He was previously arrested on stalking charges in 2019. Navarro drew national attention in 2018, when he first challenged Waters. His LinkedIn profile boasts that he raised more than $2 million to run against her that cycle.

RUMBLE AT THE REAGAN LIBRARY — Republican presidential candidates gathered in Simi Valley last night for the second GOP debate. A few took jabs at the host state, a favorite foil for some Republicans. Newsom was on hand to play defense on behalf of President Joe Biden.

The governor played surrogate for the administration and national Democrats, going on cable news to bash the candidates and talking with dozens of local reporters about the Biden agenda. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow called him “the most popular man in the spin room in Simi Valley.”

And he couldn’t get away without facing yet another question about his political future. FOX’s Sean Hannity asked if he would accept the Democratic nomination in 2024 under any circumstances. Newsom waved it off. “It’s ridiculous,” the governor said.


GROWING IN THE GOLDEN STATE: POLITICO California is growing, reinforcing our role as the indispensable insider source for reporting on politics, policy and power. From the corridors of power in Sacramento and Los Angeles to the players and innovation hubs in Silicon Valley, we're your go-to for navigating the political landscape across the state. Exclusive scoops, essential daily newsletters, unmatched policy reporting and insights — POLITICO California is your key to unlocking Golden State politics. LEARN MORE.


BILLS BILLS BILLS — California Sen. Dianne Feinstein this year engaged in a very public battle with her late husband’s estate, part of which included a fight about paying for her health care. A looming question remains – why are a U.S. senator’s medical bills so costly? (San Francisco Chronicle)

DANGEROUS WATER — About a million Californians are connected to failing water systems, which can increase their risk for cancer and serious illness. About 400 failing systems exist across the state, and “experts warn that hundreds more are poised to fail because of new and higher testing standards.” (Los Angeles Times)


TRANSITIONS —  Rebecca J. Olson joins Greenberg Traurig as an election and political law compliance attorney in its Sacramento office. She joins with her team of political compliance professionals from Miller & Olson LLP, a firm she founded and managed for more than 12 years.

BIRTHDAYS — Del Quentin Wilber ... Nadia Szold

(was Wednesday): Carrie Brownstein … WaPo’s Tony Romm … POLITICO’s Steven Overly … Carl Woog … Saraid L. Donnelly Moore


Enter the “room where it happens”, where global power players shape policy and politics, with Power Play. POLITICO’s brand-new podcast will host conversations with the leaders and power players shaping the biggest ideas and driving the global conversations, moderated by award-winning journalist Anne McElvoy. Sign up today to be notified of the first episodes in September – click here.


CALIFORNIA POLICY IS ALWAYS CHANGING: Know your next move. From Sacramento to Silicon Valley, POLITICO California Pro provides policy professionals with the in-depth reporting and tools they need to get ahead of policy trends and political developments shaping the Golden State. To learn more about the exclusive insight and analysis this subscriber-only service offers, click here.

Want to make an impact? POLITICO California has a variety of solutions available for partners looking to reach and activate the most influential people in the Golden State. Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Seeking to increase brand awareness amongst this key audience? Share your message with our influential readers to foster engagement and drive action. Contact Jesse Shapiro to find out how: [email protected].


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GOP fight brews in California


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