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Young Republicans as divided as their elders

A group of young Republicans meet at the state GOP convention.Photo: Serla Rusli)

There are divisions within the California Republican Party, and nowhere are they more apparent than among the party’s youngest members.

Capitol Weekly spoke to young Republicans on the state GOP convention last weekend in Burlingame.  Groups from the Bay Area and Southern California were represented, as well as young Republicans working on campaigns.

Trump is the only one who has a mathematical chance of winning.

Nestor Moto Jr., 21, originally supported Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, but says he is now officially on the “Trump train” after Christie dropped out and endorsed the real estate mogul. Moto said he supports Donald Trump because the candidate is an outsider who hasn’t been bought by special interests. In addition, he said Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who dropped from the race after the Indiana primary this week, is too rigid on gay issues and abortion and “too extreme for the general electorate.”

“[Trump] is the only one who has a mathematical chance of winning,” Moto said. “I don’t think a contested convention would do any favors to the Republican Party.”

Moto, chair of the California State University of Long Beach College Republicans and vice president of the Orange County Log Cabin Republicans, is a young gay Republican. He said young Republicans tend to be more “open-minded” and “socially liberal” on issues such as abortion and gay rights.

Still, other young Republicans at the convention identified themselves as more traditional conservatives.

Sierra Paoli isn’t old enough to vote, but she’s a committed Cruz supporter because the candidate shares her values on issues such as abortion and the second amendment.

Paoli, 16, was sporting a “Socialism Sucks” button that resembled a Bernie Sanders button. She said she wears the button at her Simi Valley high school, where most of her classmates are liberals. In her view, her peers get their news, and their political views, from social media.

A Kasich supporter said he could see himself supporting Trump as the nominee, even though he doesn’t believe Trump would make a good president.

Andrew Sacks, 20, is a UC Berkeley student and another Cruz supporter. From Texas, Sacks has been following Cruz since his first election. Sacks is Catholic, and thinks of himself as a conservative first and Republican second. For him, fiscal conservatism and small government are key principles. But he says it’s important to stay pragmatic.

“I think there is a conservative solution to most issues that would work for everyone,” Sacks said. “A lot of the times we don’t give it a shot.”

Hayden Padgett, left, president of East Bay Young Republicans; Bijan Mehryar, center, fellow in the state Senate; and Matt Bell, Young Republican.

Hayden Padgett, left, president of East Bay Young Republicans; Bijan Mehryar, center, fellow in the state Senate; and Matt Bell, Young Republican.

Luke Phillips, 22, supports Ohio Gov. John Kasich, calling him the most “sensible” candidate, and praising his sense of charity.

Phillips explained that with a father in the Navy, being a Republican was a family thing. Over time, he has come to rely on three principles that define his Republicanism: First, he believes in economic growth. Second, he believes the U.S. is fundamentally a force for good. Third, he views humans as corrupt by nature.

The young Republicans spoke to differed greatly in their reactions to Trump’s presumptive presidential nomination.

Moto, a Trump supporter said the candidate is “starting to turn the corner and unite the party.”

Paoli, a Cruz supporter, said, “I would stand with Trump” if he won the nomination.

Sacks, another Cruz supporter, took a harder line, saying he would write in Ted Cruz in the event Trump won the nomination.

“I wouldn’t support Trump, even in the general election,” Sacks said. “I think it would be better to have four years of Hillary because it would essentially be four more years of Obama.”

Phillips, the Kasich supporter, said he could see himself supporting Trump as the nominee, even though he doesn’t believe Trump would make a good president.

Trump is challenging Republican orthodoxy, Phillips said, and potentially opening up the party to moving in different directions in the future. Questioning rigid values will be crucial for the party going forward, he said.

“It is going to be really important for turning the GOP from being an obstructionist party — as it has been for the last 15 or 20 years — into being a more constructive governing party in the future,” Phillips said.

Ed’s Note: Reporters Sam-Omar Hall and Jason Tran, along with photographer Serla Rusli, are students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.  


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