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The California Republican Party is poised to endorse Rep. Tom McClintock over a fellow GOP candidate, an unusual move for the organization in primary elections.

The state party in recent years has made it considerably more difficult for candidates - including incumbents - to get its official stamp of approval over intraparty challengers. Still, party officials confirmed they've started the process to endorse McClintock and Republican Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen, a key candidate for state Senate.

McClintock, a conservative icon facing a challenge from Republican Art Moore, has secured the support of 10 county central committees across the sprawling, Roseville-based 4th district. The state endorsement would allow him to present a unified front and burnish his grass roots credentials to help energize volunteers and raise money.

"We felt it was an important statement to make to demonstrate who in fact was and should be the Republican nominee in the 4th Congressional District," Placer County GOP Chairman Dennis Revell said Friday. "Contrary to what his opponent might want to suggest, Congressman McClintock enjoys the unanimous support of all 10 county central committees."

The contest has been personal from the start. Moore, a political newcomer with roots in the district, criticizes the incumbent for not being from the area and espousing intransigent views. McClintock and his supporters took aim at Moore for never voting in an election and for being the creation of moderate political consultants out for conservative blood.

As recently as Wednesday, he suggested Moore's campaign coordinated with a trio of Democrats ahead of the filing deadline to manipulate the field in an attempt to unseat the incumbent in November. Under new rules, the top-two finishers regardless of party advance to the fall election.

Moore and his campaign have repeatedly denied any coordination, though the candidate did acknowledge meeting with one of the Democrats before she decided against a run.

Jeff Wyly, a spokesman for Moore, said it was to be expected the state party would endorse an incumbent like McClintock -- regardless of the bureaucratic hurdles. "Once elected, Art looks forward to working with the state party and helping Chairman (Jim) Brulte rebuild it with fresh ideas," Wyly said.

Nguyen is perhaps her party's most important legislative candidate this cycle. Running against former Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio, she is hoping to flip the 34th district seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Lou Correa of Santa Ana.

The GOP for decades had stayed out of primary elections. In 2012, however, party officials met behind closed doors and picked more than 100 candidates.

Started under Brulte, the party's new multi-step endorsement process must be triggered at the local level and requires a two-thirds vote of the board of directors. Officials are barred from weighing in on statewide contests. Republicans without an intraparty challenger are automatically supported.

PHOTO: Rep. Tom McClintock address the Northern California Tea Party Patriots at a rally September 12, 2010 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.



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