BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — For the Republican party, crime and the economy are two winning issues, ahead of the 2024 elections.

As Democrats and Republicans alike are eyeing key congressional districts — including Kern County — how each party campaigns on issues could affect who dominates the ballot.

Jessica Millan Patterson, chairwoman of the California Republican Party, did not shy away from calling out Democrats in how they handled crime, homelessness and the economy.

“If you want something different, you’re going to have to vote differently,” said Chairwoman Patterson, critiquing Democrats on their handling of crime.

“It is the policies [in California]… [Democrats] have failed Californians, they have come down on the side of criminals every single time, and they have failed the victims in California.”

According to the FBI’s 2022 Crime in the Nation Statistics, national violent crime decreased about 1.7% between 2021 to 2022.

“Where are they going up? Right here in California,” the chairwoman said, a point backed by the FBI report.

Violent crime has risen here in the Golden State since 2020.

17 News has tracked at least 66 homicides so far this year in the county.

While blaming California’s state of crime on the Democrats, Chairwoman Patterson mentioned a few California policies on crime.

  • AB 109 – the Supreme Court designated a threshold California state prisons cannot exceed. The high court allocated more responsibility to county prisons instead.
  • Proposition 47 – this ballot measure raised the monetary value needed for theft to be charged as a felony (from $400 to $950). Any amount below would instead be considered a misdemeanor.
  • Proposition 57 – this ballot measure emphasized rehabilitation for those convicted and was intended prevent federal courts from releasing prisoners.

17 News pushed back on Patterson’s response, noting the above measures were not a partisan decision but rather utilized voter input. Furthermore, AB 109 was a mandate given to California by the United States Supreme Court.

KGET’s Jenny Huh asked Patterson, “So that was an order by the Supreme Court? How does that translate to the partisanship for you?”

Patterson answered, “There’s multiple ways to find a solution to this problem. Many would say that the solution is not to put violent criminals out on our streets, yet we keep seeing that… California Republicans have tried to find solutions that would come down on the side of citizens [and victims].”

Patterson said while she’s unsure if there’ll be anything related to crime on the ballot, repealing Prop 47 would be a good first step.

She referenced a bill proposed by Kern County’s own Senator Shannon Grove — which passed the state senate with unanimous bipartisan support — enforcing harsher crackdowns on human traffickers.

“Kern County is a good example of where they’re trying to come down on the side of the citizens in Kern County,” the chairwoman said.

In Kern, homelessness is considered part of public safety concerns.

Millan called out Governor Gavin Newsom’s track record on regulating the issue, such as his 2004 promise to get San Francisco’s chronically homeless off the streets within ten years.

The chairwoman labelled Newsom’s “10-Year Plan” a failure.

“Housing is one of the issues, the mental health problems are another issue, but also the decriminalization of everything, we’re seeing the drug problem, that is also a problem that leads into homelessness.”

And on Newsom’s October trip to China, which was largely focused on climate change and renewable energy, Patterson commented the whole visit was “incredibly tone deaf.”

I asked the chairwoman, “So his climate priorities aren’t necessarily the priorities of voters is what you’re saying?”

To which she responded, “I think that his climate mandates are certainly not the priorities of California voters. If they were the priorities of California voters, you wouldn’t need a mandate.”

The Chairwoman also said Newsom is running a “shadow presidential race,” hoping to be the 2024 nominee.

“Whether it’s the high spikes in crime, whether it is our failing education system, or the high cost of living here in California or the homeless crisis, [Democrats] continue to throw money out with zero results,” Patterson stated. “Californians are getting fed up.”

“And it has become so unaffordable to live here when we have all of these natural resources.”