Republicans lose ground in California voter rolls |

Republicans lose ground in California voter rolls

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Republican voter registration in California again slipped despite a renewed effort by the GOP to enlist recruits, according to numbers reported Friday by the secretary of state’s office.

The number of Republicans fell from 34.6 percent of California’s electorate during the last gubernatorial primary four years ago to 30.8 percent in April. The latest number also is slightly lower than Republican registration during the 2008 presidential election.

Democratic registration increased from 42.7 percent of voters in 2006 to 44.6 percent in April. It was up slightly from Democratic registration in 2008.

“The Republican image sustained a lot of damage in recent years and in California (it) hasn’t really recovered, even though some individual candidates at the state level might do well,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California.

Pitney said candidates who are not closely associated with the Republican Party are faring well so far this year. For example, GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who has a large lead in the primary polls, has branded herself as a pragmatic business leader.

Similarly, former congressman Tom Campbell has taken the least orthodox positions of his primary challengers, Pitney said. Campbell, while seeking the GOP nomination for governor last year, suggested raising the gas tax to help fill the state’s budget deficit.

The report issued by Secretary of State Debra Bowen said voters who decline to state a party preference account for 20.1 percent of the 16.9 million Californians who are registered, a record. It’s up slightly from 19.9 percent in 2008.

California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said the party has made slight gains since the start of the year, going from 30.75 percent of registered voters in January to 30.8 percent in April.

Nehring said more voters are identifying themselves as Republicans in the state and the rest of the nation.

“We’re climbing while the Democrats are falling,” he said.

According to Nehring, the party has registered 100,000 new voters since October and will continue an aggressive voter-registration drive. Whitman gave $250,000 to help the party build its registration, while her GOP gubernatorial challenger, Steve Poizner, also contributed.

Pitney said decline-to-state voters have tended to identify more with Democrats.

“California is also strongly Democratic by that measure as well,” Pitney said. “That’s an underlying fact that gives a bit of an advantage to both Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer in the fall.”

Brown, the state’s attorney general, is looking to reclaim the governor’s seat he held in the late 70s and early 1980s. Boxer is seeking her fourth term in the U.S. Senate.

May 24 is the deadline to register for the June 8 primary.

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