The California Republican Party endorsed state Sen. Brian Dahle for governor on Sunday, a contentious battle among four candidates that took multiple rounds of ballots to reach the 60% threshold required for the party nod.
Dahle, a Lassen County family farmer who has spent more than a quarter century in elected office, told delegates he was most qualified because of his experience in government and as a father.
“I want for your children and my children to have the same opportunities that we’ve had. But that will not happen if we do not strike a blow for freedom this year,” he said during a candidates’ forum on Saturday, adding that incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom and other Democrats are vulnerable because of the rates of taxes, poverty and crime in California. “Delegates, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity. The wind is at our back. Californians are looking for a better choice.”
While Dahle ultimately received the votes to win the endorsement, it was not without controversy. Some delegates muttered that establishment party leaders were trying to hand him the win. And then on Friday, Dahle’s wife’s Assembly committee transferred $40,500 to the state party, leading GOP gubernatorial rival Jenny Rae Le Roux to say the endorsement had been “purchased.” She was calling on the party to return the money when her mic was cut during the candidates’ forum.
A state party official called the claim a “nothing burger,” saying all members of the Assembly Republican caucus are expected to raise a similar amount for party coffers. But the timing of the transfer — two days before the endorsement vote — was viewed skeptically by many in attendance.
The endorsement votes took place on the final day of the state GOP’s convention in Anaheim. Much of the energy at the gathering focused on Republicans’ opportunity to retake Congress, a recognition of the party’s straits in statewide contests. Democrats had a nearly 23-percentage point voter registration edge over Republicans as of March, and the GOP hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006. Last year’s effort to recall Newsom, which drew great enthusiasm among conservatives because enough voters signed petitions to qualify it for the ballot, failed by nearly 24 points.
To qualify to vie for a state party endorsement, candidates must receive the signatures of 200 delegates. The candidates can showcase their formal backing by the party on mailers and other voter communication — helpful in down-ballot races that receive little media coverage — and have access to the party’s data, staff and offices. It also allows access to state party financial resources, but that money is far more likely to be spent on competitive congressional races.
Other candidates who won endorsements include attorney Mark Meuser for U.S. Senate, education policy executive Lance Christensen for state superintendent of public instruction, former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman for attorney general, GOP policy expert and academic Lanhee Chen for controller and former Lancaster City Councilwoman Angela Underwood Jacobs for lieutenant governor.
The party could not reach a consensus in the races for treasurer or secretary of state. In the latter contest, candidate Rachel Hamm told delegates on Saturday that despite what they may have heard, she was not a “Satanic witch.”
“I am 45-year-old passionate Christian woman, actually,” said Hamm, who has been endorsed by notable figures in former President Trump’s orbit including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.