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The California Republican Party's rules committee approved by a 10-8 vote late last night an ambitious endorsement plan that would have the party send out ballots to all registered Republican voters in the state to determine the party's officially endorsed candidates.

The plan comes as a response to Proposition 14, passed in 2010, which created a top-two runoff system, regardless of party affiliation. That proposition has drawn the ire of both major parties, which have looked for ways to stay involved in the process of selecting official party candidates,

If approved in the party's general session today, as is expected, the GOP's new system would take effect in 2014 so that the party would have the time to raise money and organize the mammoth effort to mail out ballots to all of the state's Republicans. The state currently has 5.3 million registered Republicans.

In the 2012 cycle, before the new system is implemented, the party's various committees would endorse candidates by a two-thirds vote through a caucus system.

The vote capped often contentious debate at the state GOP convention being held in Sacramento in which outgoing state party Chairman Ron Nehring put forth a nomination plan that have would have let local party officials come up with endorsements. That sparked criticism from some delegates that the endorsement process would have been decided by a small cadre of political insiders.

Some legislators, including state Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton, of Rancho Cucamonga, had proposed an alternative plan that would have automatically endorsed incumbents and left the party out of other races.

The rules committee approved the plan around 11 p.m. Saturday after U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, made a personal pitch for the alternative proposal, which was submitted by longtime party activist Mike Spence.

A darling of many grass-roots GOP members, McClintock said mailing out ballots to all party member would also give the GOP a unique opportunity to raise funds from the rank-and-file.

"The Republican Party will in essence be conducting its own party primary," McClintock said. "It means in essence that we'll be doing the job that the secretary of state once did. It's going to require logistically a lot of work. ... The important question is how we will restore the role of the rank-and-file voters across this state."


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