Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Fresno Co. GOP touts women, youth — but still lags rival Democrats in registration

The Republican Party is often accused of appealing to a certain demographic — old Caucasian males.

Now, some members of the Fresno County Republican Party’s central committee are pointing out that, at least on two fronts, it is breaking down those barriers — be they true or simply an unfair portrait of the party.

For starters, the seven-members of the newly elected executive committee include four women. Longtime Republicans say it is the first them they remember women making up a majority of the executive committee.

Another trend — though one started a few years ago — is youth.

As it was starting in 2010, there are a few twentysomethings on the executive committee. Then, it was new chairman Chris Walsh, who didn’t seek reelection last year to the central committee, along with Preston Little. Now, it is Little and Anthony Ratekin.

Finally, there’s chair Sandra Lakeman. She is, Republicans say, the central committee’s second female leader, following in the footsteps of trailblazer Jane Parsons, who a decade or so ago was the first woman central committee chair.

Stuart Weil, a longtime central committee member, said he likes the new blood on the committee, most of whom were elected in last June’s primary.

But still, all is not roses among the loyal Republican rank-and-file. A lot of it is because the party is struggling in California, a few conservatives are jumping ship to re-register as independents, and in Fresno County the party continues to trail rival Democrats in registration.

The last point is particularly irksome to some.

In 2000, Republicans in Fresno County overtook Democrats in voter registration totals for the first time in memory. That lead peaked in 2004 with a GOP advantage of more than 24,000 voters.

But by the middle of 2010, Democrats had retaken the lead. They haven’t relinquished it since.

“The problem is, we’re not winning Fresno County,” said Sanger Republican Geof Lickey, who isn’t on the central committee. “Fresno County still has more Democrat registration.”

Still others question the core mission of the central committee. Does it exist for the sake of electing Republicans to office? Or does the Central Committee exist for the purpose of shaping the Republican Party?

A minority, many of whom have strong conservative leanings, feel it is the latter. But most still think the core mission is to elect Republicans.

“As far as central committee goes, as a local Republican I don’t believe our job is to set policy on things, our job is to work with good solid Republicans and get them elected,” Weil said. “We get away from that, we get in trouble. We’re just there to get people elected.”

But Weil said part of that is registering Republicans, and in that job, the central committee has come up short lately. Winning back Fresno County, he said, is critical.

Besides Lakeman as chair, Ratekin as first vice-chair and Little as a member-at-large, the other other members of the central committee’s executive board are Candice Eslick, second vice-chair; Christine Barcus, secretary; Cheryl Storer, treasurer, and Brett Adney as a member-at-large.

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