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BURLINGAME - Rep. Pete Sessions, the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, offered his support for the California Republican Party's strategy of focusing on key congressional and legislative seats rather than potentially spreading itself thin with competitive candidates in every statewide race.

"I would say to you that there are a lot of things about giving your team reason to believe that they can make a difference," Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, told reporters ahead of his dinner speech at the California Republican Party convention. "I believe, actually, by the (state) party winning seats ... that does make a difference.

"Putting a person in every single race is not an effective way to use your money or your resources," he added. "I think having great candidates with a good message, and going and organizing and talking about the huge success that Barack Obama and the Democrats are having to turn our country into a welfare state, makes a lot of sense to me."

California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte described his party's strategy Friday as putting the icing on -- not actually baking the cakes. The three-pronged approach calls for helping retain Republicans' House majority, working to eliminate the Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature and building a "farm team" of local GOP officials.

Republicans also are targeting a handful of House Democrats including Ami Bera of Elk Grove, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, Julia Brownley of Westlake Village and Scott Peters of San Diego.

Critics of the California GOP's approach suggest the lack of marquee statewide candidates could harm candidates in more competitive down-ticket races. But Sessions said Democrats' defense of the health care overhaul speaks to their insistence on following "shrill liberalism and dogma" and will lead to their downfall.

"That is not a way to make life better and the Republican Party will add to our numbers because of that," he said.

PHOTO: Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, speaks Saturday at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame. Christopher Cadelago/The Sacramento Bee



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