By MICHAEL R. BLOOD
AP Political Writer
LOS ANGELES – California Republicans blocked an attempt by party moderates Sunday to push the state GOP toward the center on immigration, abortion, guns and gay rights.
The closely divided vote by a state Republican Party committee in Los Angeles marks the latest skirmish between conservatives and centrists over the direction of the state GOP.
Moderates steered through a draft of the state party platform earlier this year that retreated from opposition to same-sex adoption and domestic partner benefits, avoided any mention of overturning Roe v. Wade and dropped a demand to end virtually all federal and state benefits for illegal immigrants.
Alarmed conservatives said the draft pushed by moderates would erase the party’s traditional, conservative values. In a 60-55 vote Sunday, a party committee sidestepped those changes an adopted a slightly revised version of the party platform adopted in 2008.
The vote was preliminary- the party will not adopt a final version of its platform until next year.
Advocates for a rewrite say the California party needs a makeover- Democrats control the Legislature, hold every statewide office and enjoy a growing registration advantage.
The proposed changes came at a time when Washington conservatives have displayed new clout on Capitol Hill, and the push toward the center appears out of step with leading Republican presidential candidates who have been pulling the party to the right on fiscal and social issues.
The current platform, adopted in 2008, says state guns laws “disarm law-abiding citizens” and calls for the end to waiting periods to purchase firearms and inclusion of a right to carry concealed weapons in the state constitution. In the proposed version that was bypassed Sunday, a single sentence is included on gun ownership, saying the party supports Second Amendment rights.
The proposed rewrite states the party “supports traditional marriage,” a significant retooling from 2008, when the platform said marriage should be defined as between a man and woman, and schools should not teach homosexuality as an “acceptable … lifestyle.” Californians have twice voted to outlaw same-sex marriage, but a federal judge last year declared the latest ban, known as Proposition 8, unconstitutional. The ruling is being contested in court.
The 2008 platform calls for the denial of most benefits to illegal immigrants, would require immigrants to learn English and makes English the official language of the government. In the retooled version proposed by moderates, it says the federal government should secure the border and reach an agreement on immigration reform.
The vote came a day after the party showcased a new effort to reach out to Latino voters, who have long shunned the California GOP.
Despite a booming population, California counted more registered Republicans in 1988 than it does today. The party is in danger of slipping under 30 percent of registered voters statewide- Democrats hold 44 percent, or an edge of 2.3 million voters. Independents outnumber Republicans in 14 of the state’s 53 congressional districts.
Hispanics could eclipse non-Hispanics and comprise the largest racial or ethnic group in the state by 2020, and they tend to vote Democratic. Independents- about 2 of 10 voters- generally tilt left in California, too.
The last Republican to carry the state in a presidential election was George H.W. Bush, in 1988.