Their party is outnumbered in the state Legislature by a 2-to-1 margin. They could be easily outmaneuvered if they try to get bold things done.
But the three Republican lawmakers from the Modesto area said they are not deterred by the supermajorities won by Democrats in the Nov. 6 election.
They said they will look for opportunities to work with Democrats on less-partisan issues while sticking with Republican principles over the long term.
"I'm not the guy up in Sacramento holding up a microphone and spewing ideological rants," said state Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres.
The Senate convened Monday for the start of the 2013-14 session with Democrats holding 29 of the 40 seats, two more than they need for the two-thirds supermajority. The Assembly gathered with 54 Democrats among its 80 members, right at the two-thirds mark.
The other two legislators who represent portions of Stanislaus, Merced or San Joaquin counties are Democrats who were elected last month Assemblyman Adam Gray and state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani.
Democrats have had strong majorities in recent sessions, but this is the first time since 1933 that one party has had a supermajority in both chambers. That means they need no Republican votes to approve tax increases, pass constitutional amendments or override vetoes by the governor.
"I don't think there's going to be a lot of opportunity to move the ball in our direction," said state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto.
He said he is concerned about union influence on the Democratic lawmakers and the possibility that they could misspend the extra tax revenue provided by voter approval of Proposition 30 last month.
Despite that, Berryhill said he is ready to get to work.
"I think that we have to continue to build relationships with moderate Democrats, which I have done since I was elected," he said.
Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, cited successful cross-party efforts in her first term, such as a bill that exempted minor traffic safety projects from environmental review.
"I plan to work in the same way," she said, "and my expectation and my hope is that I will be able to serve my constituents in a bipartisan way."
Republicans still can play a role if they follow the "pragmatic" tradition of Central Valley lawmakers, said Stephen Nicholson, an associate professor of political science at the University of California at Merced.
"I think it's always a bad idea to be uncompromising," he said. "It's always better to be part of the legislative process than walking away from it."
Bob Benedetti, a political science professor at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, said Republicans can make headway on local issues, such as highways.
"There's a lot of things done in the Legislature that are local and aren't particularly partisan," he said.
One the other hand, he said, Republicans might take advantage of splits among Democrats on certain issues. He noted that Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has not shied from vetoing bills, which forces the supermajority to hold together if it wants to override such actions in the new session.
Olsen, whose district includes parts of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, said many people care about education and jobs, which don't have to be partisan issues.
"I know what I'm dealing with and I don't have false expectations," she said. "I am persistent and determined not to let this change the way I approach my job."
Cannella said that even on partisan issues, he is not afraid to vote against his party. He cited his vote to open college financial aid to people who entered the country illegally.
"I gauge everything I do on what's in the best interest of my district rather than the best interest of my party," Cannella said.
He is in the middle of his first four-year term in a district that takes in part or all of Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Monterey and San Benito counties.
Berryhill is halfway through a Senate term in a district that includes part or all of Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera and Fresno counties.
He and Cannella would be in redrawn districts should they choose to run for re-election in 2014.
Berryhill said he hopes to keep his party's core principles in the forefront even as he works with Democrats as needed.
"We as Republicans need to talk about no new taxes," he said. "We need to talk about fiscal responsibility and jobs."
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.