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Utah Sen. Mike Lee said Tuesday that his national conservative reform agenda could be applied by California Republicans to help narrow the chasm with state Democrats.

"I think one of the reasons why we have struggled as a party in a lot of places has to do with the fact that we don't always connect the dots between our conservative policies and where we are trying to go with them," Lee said.

Lee, a favorite of the tea party movement, made the remarks in a telephone interview with The Bee to endorse Republican Igor Birman, who is challenging freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, in suburban Sacramento's 7th district.

Birman, 32 and an aide to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, is hoping to emerge from a crowded field of GOP candidates that includes former Rep. Doug Ose and Elizabeth Emken, a former nonprofit executive who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012.

Birman and his family emigrated from the Soviet Union two decades ago and his campaign draws heavily from their shared experiences. He believes the freedom too many here take for granted is in jeopardy because of government policies.

"He has experienced first-hand what it's like to live under exactly the kind of government regime that is oppressive and wrong having been born in the Soviet Union," Lee said. "He has seen the reasons why we need limitations on the authority of government and he understands standing up for the limitations imposed on government through the constitution, and sticking to conservative values, will be the best way to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy."

Lee's comments come less than a week before California Republicans meet outside San Francisco for their biannual state convention. Last week, he urged conservatives to redefine their movement and said failure to adopt new ideas would land them on the losing end of future elections for years to come.

"It's time for the Republican Party to stop talking about Ronald Reagan and start acting like him," he told the Conservative Political Action Conference.

PHOTO: Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., March 6, 2014. Associated Press/Cliff Owen



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