3 Women Are Now the California GOP's Most Prominent Leaders

1 min
Political consultant Jessica Patterson was elected in February 2019 as the new chair of the California Republican Party. (Katie Orr/KQED)

The California Republican Party is looking to rebuild after devastating election losses. For the first time, a trio of women will be the ones leading the charge.

With the election of Jessica Patterson as the new party chair, that puts three women as the most prominent faces of the state Republican Party.

Patterson will work alongside Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove of Bakersfield and Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron of Escondido.

The Future of the California Republican Party
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Waldron said Patterson's election at the recent convention clearly signals party members wants a new direction for the GOP.

"Those delegates from around the state saw the value in having a woman as the representative of the party going forward for this term," Waldron said.

But while women are leading the Republican Party, the GOP still has a lot of ground to make up. Several GOP women running for election or re-election to Congress lost their races last fall, including Rep. Mimi Walters of Laguna Beach. Of the seven Republican members of California's congressional delegation, not one is a woman.

And in Sacramento, Republicans hold only about 25 percent of state legislative seats and just five of those members are women. By comparison there are 31 female Democrats in the Legislature —10 in the Senate and 21 in the Assembly.

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Still, Grove points out that men dominated the Democratic Party in the Legislature for a very long time.

"When you walk down the outside of the chamber in the Senate side, you walk (past) a long line of pictures of male speakers. And then you have the current Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins as the only female leader," Grove said.

Grove and Waldron say that, together with Patterson, they can offer a better message on how Republicans will deal with issues like poverty, education and child care. And, Grove said, the three of them might be able to act as a bridge with the federal government.

"I think that, regardless of what state you're in, you have to have some type of cooperation with the federal government and the administration," Grove said.

Both Grove and Waldron said they plan to work with Democrats and each other to make sure Republicans are involved in important legislation. But that might be easier said than done. In 2017 Republican Assemblyman Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley  lost his position as Assembly Republican leader after voting with Democrats to extend the state's cap-and-trade program. He has since started an organization aimed at steering the party toward a more moderate position.

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