Written By: Ling Ling Chang, originally posted in Fox&Hounds

If you’ve read or watched political news reports over the last several months, you might think Republicans are nearing extinction in California, and it’s unlikely conservative leaders will ever regain leadership in the Golden State. Public opinion research and registration data shows the GOP has a mountain to climb to regain confidence from voters, no doubt; however, the prospect of a Republican comeback is much brighter. GOP leaders are working hard to recruit, train and elect the next generation of Republican leaders to state legislative office. And that’s important for the future of the GOP, and the future of our state. A thriving democracy relies upon robust debate and exchange, not one-party rule, which can often dominate the legislature.

For too long Democrats have had a competitive advantage in the way they recruit and train candidates,  leading to fewer Republicans elected to state legislative office. Until now, Republicans have lacked a fundamental, yet critical, resource – candidate training. The party of rugged individualism is now collaborating with GOP leaders to help candidates sharpen their campaign skills and win elections. Moving forward, Republican legislative candidates will have an institutional program to help them develop and run strong, sophisticated campaigns: California Trailblazers.

This candidate training program is modeled after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s successful Young Guns program, widely recognized for the 2010 national Republican wave election. Trailblazers is leading the effort to rebuild the Republican Party in California through a comprehensive and structured program to give qualified candidates, who match their districts, the tools and training to be successful.

Recruiting candidates who match their districts is critical to success. This strategy contributed to Republican wins in the Easy Bay and South Bay with Assemblywoman Catharine Baker and Assemblyman David Hadley. Both Republican lawmakers carried the GOP banner, and attracted voters across party lines, given their leadership and commitment to serving their local communities. Every region of California is unique, and California Trailblazers has embraced this reality and helped identify good candidates who match their districts.

Recruiting quality candidates is the first step. Second is ensuring they are well trained and positioned for success. Hadley credits the Trailblazer program for helping him maximize his campaign’s effectiveness in a district that was considered a safe Democrat seat. Baker used the skills she gained from the Trailblazers program to organize a disciplined campaign.

As the Vice Chair of the California Trailblazers Campaign Caucus, I know that program leaders are working as a team to host training sessions to give candidates the practical fundraising, grassroots outreach, communications and policy skills they need to be successful in their races. We’re offering candidates access to veteran campaign experts who provide support and mentorship as they develop their campaigns.

This program has changed the dynamic of legislative elections, and helped level the playing field for Republicans.

I look forward to working with my fellow Trailblazers alumni, including our Caucus Chair Assemblyman James Gallagher, to sustain this program and elect more Republicans in the future