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Long-Suffering Calif GOP Looks For Fresh Start

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AHAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — California Republicans are searching for answers.

Delegates at a statewide convention Saturday pondered how to rebuild a party pushed to the margins in the nation’s most populous state, while keeping the peace between uneasy conservative and centrist factions.

It won’t be easy.

Concern over the party’s image was at issue when a committee waded into a debate involving transgender children and schools.

In August, California become the first state to enshrine certain rights for transgender students in law, requiring public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom or locker room they want to use. A potential ballot question in November would rescind the new law.

Gregory Gandrud, a regional vice chairman for the party, warned committee members to be cautious about the message the party is sending at a time when it’s trying to broaden its membership.

To build the party “we have to be very careful how we portray ourselves publicly,” he said, adding that there could be other ways to deal with the issue. He urged members to consider “the message that comes out of this convention.”

Delegates gathered to regroup at time when the GOP has suffered a string of deflating elections in California.

You’d have to go back a generation to find a Republican presidential candidate who carried the state, George H.W. Bush. Democrats hold every statewide office, dominate both chambers in the Legislature and hold a commanding 2.7 million-voter edge in statewide registration.

At issue is recruiting new GOP voters, especially among minorities and the young. According to the independent Field Poll, 9 of 10 new voters in the state in the last decade have been Hispanic or Asian.

In the 2012 presidential race, President Barack Obama received more than 70 percent of the Hispanic and Asian vote.

“We need a whole new set of warriors in communities we haven’t had before,” Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel told a group of Asian officeholders.

At a panel discussion on technology, strategist Chandra Sharma told delegates that most Republican campaigns tend to rely on mail advertising and phone calls that don’t reach people under 35 years old. More emphasis and investment needs to go online, he said.

“We have a lot of catching up to do,” he said.

The Republican star of the weekend is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, who planned to address the convention later Saturday.

His stop in Anaheim will also allow him to build connections with party activists and fundraisers, should he decide to enter the 2016 contest.

In an interview Friday, Perry said he could decide as soon as next year whether to enter the White House contest. A lesson from his last, five-month run: “Get in early.”

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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