SACRAMENTO — California is a Democratic stronghold, with supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly, a Democratic governor and big congressional wins in last year’s midterm elections.
But there was a time when the Golden State wasn’t so deeply blue.
California birthed two Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, and in more recent memory, voters twice elected Republican Arnold Swarzeneggar to be governor.
But as the saying goes, that was then and this is now.
Now, only one out of every four voters in California identifies as Republican. That’s something that’s going to change according to the GOP’s new leader in California — Jessica Patterson.
Patterson is the newly-elected chair of the California Republican Party. She’s a fresh face many feel will help revamp a party in decline in the state.
“We’re in a place where we’re the capital of poverty and this has all happened under Democrat watch,” she said.
Patterson, 38, is a married mother of two, Latina, and is the first woman to be elected chair of her party in California.
Her political career spans more than a decade at both the state and national level. She also serves as the CEO of California Trailblazers, an organization that recruits and trains candidates for office and she’s known for being a strong fundraiser.
“In California, we’re at a turning point. And if we’re the ones that are delivering the message on what has failed and what is an opportunity for us to succeed then let’s go out there and do it,” Patterson said.
Patterson also doesn’t shy away from shortfalls within her own party.
“We definitely have seen some dark times and November was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of us and so, for me, it was really important that we don’t give up on the party,” she told FOX40.
Her introduction to the GOP came at a young age. She grew up in Southern California, and both of her parents were Democrats.
One day, on the way, to school she asked her mom if she could volunteer at a party headquarters nearby. She was 16.
Patterson said she was drawn to the Republican Party because of its values.
“Doing things on your own, no one’s ever going to help you out,” Patterson said. “You know, working as hard as you could. I felt like those were all principles of Republicans.”
Those are principles Patterson says she still believes in today, and put the Democratic Party on notice during her speech at the recent CAGOP convention. She said the Republican Party would be the “party of winning,” which she admits will take a lot of work.
“It’s going to take a lot of things. We didn’t get here overnight and it’s not going to be fixed overnight. There is no silver bullet. But a lot of our problems is going to be fixed by engaging, engaging all over the state in communities that have been neglected by us over the years,” Patterson said.
Among the forgotten communities are groups Patterson is familiar with — Latinos and women. She’s also hoping to gain ground with the 20 million Californians currently registered to vote, the highest percentage since 1996, according to the secretary of state.
“We need to focus on what is going to appeal to people that are already registered to vote to becoming Republicans, whether it’s decline to states or soft Democrats,” she said. “What are the issues that are important to them that Republicans are right on?”
Some have said Patterson is the face of the future for the GOP. San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio said the California Republican Party would collapse into a “regional organization” without her, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The pressure isn’t lost on her.
“I understand the responsibility that I have, and so it only drives me more to make sure our party is successful,” she said.
Moving forward, Patterson says the lack of affordable housing, poor education and high taxes are some of the issues she will pointing to as Democratic failures in order to sway more Californians to vote Republican.