One of the California Republican Party's many problems in recent years has been its inability, when talking about immigration and other controversial policy issues, to appease party activists without alienating Latino or independent voters.
It is a hard balance to strike, and when Jim Brulte was elected chairman of the party earlier this year, he suggested it focus on other things. Let candidates and elected officials talk about issues, he said, while the party works on fundraising, voter registration and turnout.
It is a message that resonated with members of the party's donor and political classes, but it may be tested when the party convenes next week in Anaheim for its fall convention.
The Tea Party California Caucus, a newly-formed coalition of tea party groups, plans to propose five resolutions at the convention, including one advocating for a voter identification law in California and another "supporting following the immigration laws that we already have on the books," said Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau, a tea party organizer.
The group's other resolutions involve the environment, education and California's $68 billion high-speed rail project.
Brandau acknowledged highlighting immigration and voter identification policies might not be Brulte's first choice. But the two men talked this week, and they both said Brulte was accommodating.
The former Senate Republican leader, in keeping with his focus on the "nuts and bolts" of the party's political operation, declined to discuss the substance of the resolutions, but he said tea party members are welcome to bring them up in a committee meeting for consideration. As the state party tries to revive itself, he said, it needs all of its members to work together.
"I don't talk about policy," Brulte said. "I leave that to members of the Legislature and members of the congressional delegation. But any delegate can bring any resolution, and those resolutions will be reported to the appropriate CRP committees, and the appropriate CRP committees will review them."
The prospects for the tea party's resolutions aren't high.
"We live in a very liberal state," Brandau said, "and we don't expect overnight success. But what we don't want to see is the tea party just dismissed to the side."
He said he hopes 100 to 150 tea party members will attend the convention. They won't be disruptive, he said, but will have a meeting place and a hospitality suite in the evening.
He said Brulte's desire to focus on the party's political operation is understandable.
However, he said, "We also want to talk about policy, because that's where our heartbeat is."
PHOTO CREDIT: Former state Sen. Jim Brulte speaks with reporters after being elected as California Republican Party chairman during the CRP convention held in Sacramento on Sunday, March 3, 2013. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli