In a state dominated by Democrats, Republicans focus on those missing out on the strong
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By ALEJANDRO LAZO
The U.S. Census Bureau’s
Measure, which is adjusted for
the cost of housing, places
California second among the
50 states and Washington,
D.C., with a poverty rate of
20.6%, just under the District
of Columbia’s 22.2%.
The state ranks sixth in the
world for gross domestic
product, according to a report
released last year by the
California’s Department of
Finance, but the state’s high
cost of living is a drag on its
economic power, according to
another state analysis.
“We have the highest poverty
rate in the nation, and that is
on their watch,” Republican
Party Chairman Jim Brulte
said of the Democrats.
The 39-year-old Mr. Mayes,
son of a small-town,
evangelical pastor, sees
opportunity in a “Jack Kempstyle,
message. Republicans have
pounced on the poverty
measure as well as a means of
criticizing California’s liberal
Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, a Los
Angeles Democrat who chairs
the state Senate budget
committee, said the povertyfocus
was a new tune for
“You want to talk about
poverty reduction or
elimination, I am first in line,
but I need for it to be a real
conversation, not a campaign
ploy,” Ms. Mitchell said.
California had the 17thhighest
poverty rate among
states, 15%, under the official Census measure.
Poverty varies widely across the state, with some
of the highest rates in the state’s inland,
agricultural counties. The supplemental rate isn’t
broken down at the county level but the official
poverty rate is, so it captures some of the disparities in the Golden State.
Central California’s Tulare County, with a poverty rate of 28.1%, and Fresno, to the
north, with a rate of 26.8%, have the highest rates in the state. Many of the Republicans
pushing the antipoverty agenda hail from inland areas.
The sparsely populated Mono County, on the Nevada border, has the lowest rate, at
4.9%, followed by two Bay Area counties: San Mateo, at 8%, and Marin, at 8.3%,
according to U.S. Census data.
Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said
she had worked with Mr. Mayes on a bill he had introduced that would incentivize
welfare recipients to get high-school and college degrees. She also applauded a
Republican bill aimed at expanding the number of dentists that accept payment through
Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.
Nationally, House Speaker Paul Ryan has criticized anti-poverty spending as ineffective,
and last year rolled out a series of proposals that included work requirements for
welfare, greater state control over poverty programs and increasing job training
programs. Critics said the plan cuts the social safety net.
The California GOP’s focus comes after a nationalist message appealing to white,
working class voters in key swing states proved a successful road to the White House for
President Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump presents a conundrum for the state GOP, as his presidency has emboldened
activists who have pushed the state party to embrace some of his more hard-line
positions, which can be toxic in this liberal state.
The Republican Party’s share of the voter registration is about 26% statewide, and
Democrats expanded their majorities in both houses of the state legislature to
supermajority status, meaning they can fast-track legislation and raise taxes without a
single Republican vote.
Eric Schmidt of Hesperia, Calif., a San Bernardino County Republican Party central
committee member and the president of aerospace company, Exquadrum Inc.—in an
industry that has been in sharp decline here—agreed with the GOP’s antipoverty focus.
Poverty isn’t a partisan issue, he said, it is “common sense.”
“When you really look at the better part of 30 years of policies—they are not working,”
he said. “At some point you need to recognize that the decisions that are being made are
not moving the general populace in the right direction.