STOCKTON (AP) — Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele swept through California’s economically hard-hit Central Valley on Wednesday to rally conservative voters behind GOP candidates in competitive congressional races.

Steele visited the blue-collar city of Stockton on the latest leg of the RNC’s national “Fire Pelosi” bus tour.

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Republicans hope to take control of the House and replace Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who Steele described as “the symbol of the frustration people have” this year.

Steele was joined in Stockton by well-funded Republican David Harmer, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney in the 11th District, an area evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Steele called on the crowd of about 75 people to stay energized and reach out to like-minded voters.

“You can’t be shy here, you can’t just half-step this effort,” he told them.

California remains a difficult state for Republicans, Steele acknowledged, but he said he likes the party’s prospects for some significant upsets.

“This is not the same old California anymore,” he said. “It’s a California that is looking at its options, looking at its future.  And Republicans will win in California this November.”

A spokesman for the California Democratic Party described the RNC tour as “heavy on the glossy packaging, light on the substance.”

“If the best Michael Steele and the Republican Party can come up with is a tired retread of the Tea Party Express bus tour, they’re going to be in for a rude awakening in California,” said Tenoch Flores, referring to one of the country’s most visible and biggest-spending tea party organizations.

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Kim Yee, a Stockton resident who has been unemployed for nearly two years, said her biggest concerns coming into the election were education and jobs. The 48-year-old said she attended Wednesday’s rally to hear from Republican Party leaders and candidates in person.

“I think people are educating themselves more this year and demanding more from candidates than just a 30-second ad,” she said.

Many Republicans are looking at the 11th District as the seat most likely to change hands in California this fall. The district stretches from the left-leaning eastern suburbs of the San Francisco Bay area to the more conservative San Joaquin Valley, and is competitive in almost any election year.

Harmer, a San Ramon attorney and former fellow of the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, was the first California candidate to raise enough money to reach the top tier of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” campaign assistance program.

On Tuesday, his campaign reported raising over $550,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30.

McNerney’s campaign on Wednesday released its own fundraising preview, reporting more than $700,000 in contributions over that same period.

The “Fire Pelosi” bus arrived in Southern California earlier this week and was scheduled to wrap up its California visit Wednesday afternoon in Redding, a Republican stronghold in the north of the state.

“This is about engaging the people of California,” Steele said after the Stockton event. “We have not been very good at that side of the political equation in recent years but all that is changing.”

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