New York City cab driver. Hazardous waste cleanup technician. Budget airline flight attendant. To that list of challenging jobs, add this: top executive of the California Republican Party.
You want daunting? California is bluer than a Himalayan lake and getting bluer by the minute. Democrats hold virtually every constitutional office in the state, from governor on down. Dems hold 47 of California’s 53 congressional seats and three-quarters of the seats (a super-super majority?) in both state legislative houses. Fewer than a fourth of California voters are officially Republican.
You want daunted? Don't be looking at Jessica Patterson, elected eight weeks ago as chairwoman of the state Republican Party. Patterson, a Southern California political consultant and 38-year-old mother of two, has a plan to stem that tide — and the sort of feisty confidence to pull it off, or certainly try.
Patterson, the first woman to hold that leadership position, was in Bakersfield Tuesday as luncheon speaker for a meeting of the Bakersfield Republican Women Federated. Fifty-four million Californians might have voted for someone other than her party's 2018 gubernatorial candidate, but here at the Stockdale Country Club she was in the company of 200 friends and allies — including some, she intimated, who might have aided in her ascent to the party's chairwomanship.
Referencing Democrats' successful take-back of the House of Representatives last November, she acknowledged that some pundits have written off this state's Republican Party as "not salvageable."
"Tough times," she conceded.
But she says Republicans can recover with aggressive fundraising, strategic messaging and smart voter registration efforts.
Fundraising must target "not just in the low- and mid-donor range, but the large-donor range too," she said.
And the dollars are there. Evidence? Look no further than House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, who "went out there and broke records," Patterson said. McCarthy's $23.06 million haul in the first quarter of 2019 represents the largest sum any House Republican has ever raised in a single quarter.
Media and messaging must be a priority, Patterson said. Kern County has a number of "communities that are feeling left out," she said.
Engage them, she urged. "Part of it is just showing up."
Latinos and women are two key areas of potential growth, said Patterson, who happens to be both. Different parts of the state will have different target communities. In the Orange County city of Huntington Beach, for example, it was Vietnamese voters, Patterson noted.
Democrats used ballot harvesting, the legal-in-California practice of submitting mail-in ballots on behalf of voters who are not family members, with great success in 2018. Patterson said Republicans must expand their playbook to include it.
One of the richest veins of voter gold will be in convincing non-Republicans that they are in fact Republicans, Patterson said.
Republicans must "engage decline-to-state (voters) and Democrats and convince them their ideas and values are Republican ideas and values," Patterson said. Those voters "may be Republicans and just not know it."
Patterson also addressed an issue that undoubtedly gives many voters pause: The perception, largely justified in my view, that Republicans are more often against Democratic proposals than effectively supportive of their own. It would help, she said, if they actually had their own.
"We need to hold the Democrats accountable for the silly ideas they're bringing to Sacramento but we also need to have ideas" ourselves as Republicans, she said. "... We can't just be the party of 'no.'"
She pointed to Proposition 6, the Republican-supported initiative that would have overturned the Legislature-enacted gasoline tax, earmarked for transportation projects including improvement of roads across the state.
She pointed to Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, as one legislator who has worked proactively to that end, citing his anti-Prop. 6 efforts. Fong, an opponent of SB 1, which originally authorized the gas tax, drafted an alternative that redirected existing funds to pay for road improvements, with no tax increase.
"How many," Patterson asked the crowd, "knew about Vince Fong's alternate plan?" She saw a few scattered hands.
Afterward, Patterson agreed that another, less tangible force might be working in Republicans' favor: the political pendulum. California was a Republican stronghold, at least in presidential elections, from 1952 until 1992. If not for Barry Goldwater's 1964 disaster, Republicans would have won in California 40 straight years.
Hard to imagine now.
But the Democrats themselves are slowly eroding their advantage.
"Overreach," she said, attempting to address her beef stroganoff after having addressed the 200 luncheon attendees. "Gavin Newsom was liberal right out of the gate and now he's (acting) even more liberal. Overreach will cost them."
Patterson isn't banking on that alone, fortunately. Her message to fellow Republicans: Get to work. Let the rest take care of itself.