Better Candidates Won’t Be Enough for GOP

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Jeff Randle is one of the most thoughtful Republican strategists in California.

He's advised Meg Whitman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson, among others. And, writing in the Sacramento Bee, Randle argues that his party, if it's ever going to regain power, must field better candidates, attract diverse voters, and speak more directly to the independents that decide elections. He writes:

Time is of the essence. Republicans should have a dedicated effort to recruit Latinos for non-partisan offices. We must also prove our sincerity by funding Latino Republicans in safe Assembly and Senate seats as well as swing districts. And we have to connect with independent voters who support our policies on government reform, fiscal accountability and tax fairness.

These are all good ideas, and are worth pursuing But they won't be nearly enough to bring Republicans back to power.

What the GOP needs is a change in the political system itself.

Put simply, the current method of legislative elections hurts Republicans. The GOP gets a higher percentage of votes in legislative races than its percentage of legislators in office. But under the single-member district, plurality vote system, Democrats, representing districts in which fewer vote, pick up big majorities of seats -- far bigger than the percentage of the vote they receive.

Even with stronger candidates, the GOP is likely to fall short until it does something about this system.

What would the party have to do? Republicans need a system that awards legislative seats proportionally -- by the percentage of the vote that its candidates get. Proportional representation seems strange to Americans, and particularly Republicans. But it has a long history in the U.S. And it's really the only way to make the party competitive, particularly given its weakness in population centers such as the Bay Area and greater Los Angeles.

In a proportional system, Republicans would win a higher percentage of seats simply by changing the rules, and they'd win seats in every corner of the state. This would broaden the audience for the GOP message--and give the Republicans the opportunity they don't have now to convince voters  that they've changed. And if the Republicans recruited better candidates with a broader message, they could win back power. 

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