In the last election alone, California Republicans surrendered supermajority control of the state Legislature, lost decisive congressional races and saw their voting ranks drop below 30 percent statewide.
“Their problem is that they don’t just lack a deep bench, their entire arena is empty,” said Jason Kinney, a Democratic political consultant. “California Republicans just don’t have anybody around who can move the needle. They’ve got to rebuild from the ground up, which is going to be a long-term play, and in the short term that’s going to hurt them.”
Ken Khachigian, a Republican strategist, said the 2010 clash between Harris and Cooley was an indicator of the GOP’s increasing challenges in statewide elections.
Harris, the district attorney of San Francisco, personally opposed the death penalty. Cooley, the district attorney of Los Angeles, supported the death penalty and challenged her commitment to enforce it. He also was a relatively well-known incumbent prosecutor in a county roughly 10 times the size of San Francisco.
“That was probably the canary in the coalmine that California is becoming so blue that it’s hard even for a high-name-ID Republican to win a race like that,” said Khachigian, who managed Dan Lungren’s successful run for attorney general in 1990 and Chuck Poochigian’s unsuccessful bid for the office in 2006.
The new voter-approved primary system, in which the top two vote-getters regardless of party advance to the fall runoff, may only exacerbate Republicans’ problems here.