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Tea Party Threatens GOP Establishment in California

March 10, 2016

As the nation focuses on presidential primary season, where conservative aspirants to the White House try to woo voters and caucus goers, a subtler political trend is taking place in California. And it could spell doom for the California GOP. Conservative candidates across this traditionally blue state are hoping to fill Barbara Boxer’ soon-to-be-vacated sensate seat, but the upstart tea party movement might have the last word on that. Here’s what to know about the tea party’s influence in the 2016 California elections.

They are an ascending minority

California is still a left-leaning state, and conservatives are certainly in the minority. However, an LA Times/Dornsife poll released in September 2015 showed that 48% of Republicans support the tea party. That’s not too shabby for an organization that’s only existed since 2009.

GOP candidates need their support

Republican candidates for senate, such as Tom Del Beccaro and George Sundheim, find themselves in the unenviable position of having to appeal to not only the party moderates, but also the reactionary faction found in the tea party. Any candidate who even hints at a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will find that tea party members will turn their backs on them come June.

More isn’t necessarily better

On top of Del Beccaro and Sundheim, Al Ramirez, a Los Angeles businessman, has thrown his hat in the ring and is aggressively courting the tea party. For the Republicans, too much choice could be a bad thing. Having so many candidates runs the risk of fracturing the electorate. And because California’s system is set up in such a way that the two candidates who receive the most votes during the June primary end up on the ballot, that means two democrats could be running in November.

The stats don’t lie: the California Republican party has been suffering declines for years, and the arrival of the tea party seems like it will only hasten the party’s decline. Because while the tea party hopes to start a political revolution in California, other folks, like U.C. San Diego political science professor Gary Jacobsen, feel the movement all but threatens to destroy the state GOP. He says of the tea party: “They are culturally, ideologically and demographically out of touch with a large majority of Californians.”

Not great news for California conservatives.