California Republicans elect female as new chair at divisive convention

Jessica Patterson

During a convention in Sacramento over the weekend that highlighted divisions between ardent supporters of President Donald Trump and establishment-leaning Republicans pushing for a new, diverse California Republican Party, delegates elected the state party’s first female leader. 

In addition to becoming the first woman to serve as California Republican Party chair, Jessica Patterson, 38, is also the first Latina and millennial to lead the state GOP. Patterson received 54.6 percent of the vote at the convention, easily defeating challengers Travis Allen, a former state assemblyman, and Steve Frank, a longtime party activist.

“Let’s serve notice to the Democrats in California that we are back and we are ready to deliver on the Republican comeback,” Patterson said at the convention. “We’re going to take the fight to Democrats. We’re going to fight them in the press, at community gatherings… and we’re going to beat them in elections.”

But, numerous Republican activists and online commenters have expressed doubt in Patterson’s ability to lead the state party and pose a challenge to California Democrats. Supporters of Patterson’s opponents in the state party chair race accused her of not being conservative enough and of being the pick of the party establishment that has overseen the fall of the California GOP. 

While both Allen and Frank are outspoken supporters of Trump, Patterson refrained from expressing anything more than moderate support from Trump. Allen, for instance, praised Trump’s efforts to “build the wall,” while Patterson opted not to take a strong position on the national immigration debate and instead focused on state issues.

Patterson received the endorsement of United States House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other leading California Republicans prior to last weekend’s convention. The new state party chair previously worked on the campaigns of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Rudy Giuliani, during his 2008 bid for president.

On top of Patterson’s election, Peter Kuo, a Taiwanese-American, was elected state party vice chair, and Greg Gandrud was elected treasurer. The new leadership is tasked with leading a party that does not have a statewide officeholder and trails not only the Democrats but decline-to-state voters in California registration. 

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