California Republicans are seeing political gold in California's water problems, hoping to steal the issue from Democrats and win support from one of that party's key constituencies - Latinos.GOP leaders have put water atop their agenda for next year's statewide campaigns. They are expanding voter-registration efforts in the drought-stricken Central Valley, where unemployment is high and food banks are busy, and encouraging candidates to reach out to Latino voters hit hard by the recession.
The strategy was distilled on a 5-foot-high banner at the Republican voter registration table in front of a Walmart store in Dinuba (Tulare County) in August: "Stop the radical environmentalists. Save your water. Save your jobs. Vote Republican."
California's crisis over water, complicated by court rulings that delayed water deliveries to farms to protect threatened fish, has become a major issue, with state and federal officials seeking ways to aid struggling farmers.
"From a political perspective, it's a tremendous opportunity," said Brent Lowder, chief operating officer of the state Republican Party. "It has given us a chance to stand next to a constituency that has traditionally looked to the Democratic Party for help.
"We've been talking about this for a while," Lowder said. "And we see a chance to move the needle on this."