Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte are having a tough election year. The white supremacist mantra they have been chanting for decades isn’t working any longer.
Rohrabacher has drawn more than a half-dozen Democratic challengers, some of whom have raised more cash than the 15-term congressman. Brulte can do little to save him.
Election handicappers now say the Rohrabacher race a toss-up. Protesters have shown up at his home and district office, and Rohrabacher’s name has frequently come up during the investigation into Russian election meddling because of his connections to key figures in the inquiry.
Then Scott Baugh, a well-known Republican who spent more than a decade leading the county party, decided to run against him.
According to the Los Angeles Times, while the GOP works to protect vulnerable incumbents whom Democrats want to oust in order to regain control of the House, Rohrabacher’s longtime local support network is starting to buckle.
The lack of full party support for Rohrabacher is a stunning break with tradition in a year when Republicans are on the defense.
Jim Brulte, chair of the California Republican Party, said he was not aware his name was on the letter until the party released it. Brulte declined to comment on Baugh, saying only that the state party had already endorsed Rohrabacher. A spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee said only that Rohrabacher is a “dues-paying incumbent and we support our incumbents.”
Fred Whitaker, chair of the Orange County Republican Party, said he tried to change Baugh’s mind. “It’s disappointing,” Whitaker said. “I need [Republicans] focusing on races where I actually have to beat Democrats,” including two open seats, where Reps. Ed Royce of Fullerton and Issa, of Vista, are retiring.
Baugh accused the county party of “following a dogma that protects all incumbents, even if they’ve been in office for 30 years and have lost touch.”
Rohrabacher did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Some Republicans’ frustrations with Rohrabacher’s penchant for controversy and bombastic style have been brewing for years. They have privately said the congressman is ineffective, inaccessible and out of step with local issues.