California GOP holds convention in Burlingame

Republicans from around the state gathered in Burlingame on Saturday for the California GOP convention during a critical election year. 

"Republicans are moving in the right direction," said John Dennis, chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party. "We have a lot to work for and a lot of opportunities to improve the party and improve California."

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state 2:1, but GOP members say they’re making progress. 

They’re putting energy into races at every level from school boards to the San Francisco mayor’s race. "The mayor’s race is an important one and sends a big signal to the city and the world that we’re ready to put San Francisco back on track," said Dennis, making it clear the party hasn’t endorsed any candidate yet.

Republicans in Sacramento say they’re working to compete with Democrats’ dominant majority in the state legislature.

 "You probably see from us in the Assembly, we’re going on the offensive, we are calling things out," said Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Chico). "When we run smart races, and we recruit great candidates like we’re doing, we can win those seats and that’s what’s going to help make a difference."

Though California is unlikely to swing the presidential race, it could tilt the balance of power in Congress. 

"Control of the House will run through California," said Lanhee Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, who ran unsuccessfully for state controller. "There are a couple seats in SoCal, a couple in Central Valley, they’re absolutely critical."

Outside the Hyatt Regency where the convention was held, it was a much calmer scene compared to the 2016 convention in the same place. 

Then-candidate Donald Trump was met by protesters forcing him to enter through the back. And though the presumptive nominee didn’t attend this year, his supporters and his merchandise were out in force.

One of the convention’s featured speakers was South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. 

She’s been under fire for parts of her new book, including a story of her shooting and killing her dog in a gravel pit. 

The VP contender laughed off the controversy and urged the crowd to support Trump.

 "I don’t think it’s about Republicans on Democrats anymore," said Noem. "I don’t think it’s about political parties. I think it is about people who love America and people who are trying to destroy America."

The California Democratic Party’s chair Rusty Hicks responded to the convention this way: 

"While this weekend’s gathering of California Republicans is just another stop on Trump’s Vice President audition tour, California Democrats are convening to lead the "resistance" against Trump and the Republican Party’s extremist agenda."

Republicans used a baseball theme for the convention: "Spring Training, Fall Victory." 

But, the party’s former baseball star, Steve Garvey was not in attendance. 

The US Senate candidate’s opponent, Democrat Adam Schiff writing "…my opponent Steve Garvey will be conspicuously absent – continuing to cement his reputation as a dodger."

Garvey’s campaign spokesperson Matt Shupe responded. "He’s out campaigning to all Californians, he’s raising money, all things a statewide candidate needs to do to win election," said Shupe. "I think people are excited for this race. I think they’re excited to defeat Adam Schiff."

The convention also featured former President Trump’s daughter-in-law and Republican National Committee co-chair, Lara Trump.