Reagan Country Turns Blue

One of the last Republican strongholds in California is now completely blue.

In addition to capturing the House of Representatives on Election Day, Democrats also managed to turn what used to be one of the most Republican areas of California, and what had been one of the last Republican holdout strongholds in the Golden State completely blue. I’m speaking of Orange County, which had been the center of the movement that gave birth to both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, but which now is completely controlled by Democrats at the Congressional level:

California Democrats completed their sweep of the congressional delegation in Orange County on Saturday as Gil Cisneros defeated Young Kim, a Republican, to capture a fourth seat in what had once been one of the most conservative Republican bastions in the nation.

The victory by Mr. Cisneros, a philanthropist, was declared by The Associated Press. It completes what has amounted to a Democratic rout in California this year. Democrats set out to capture seven Republican-held seats where Hillary Clinton defeated President Trump in 2016, including four in Orange County. They won six of them.

Representative David Valadao, from the Central Valley, is the only Republican who survived the Democratic onslaught in those seven districts, according to The Associated Press. His margin has shrunk as mail-in votes have continued to be counted. The deadline for counting those votes in California is Dec. 7.

With Mr. Cisneros’s victory, Democrats now control all four House seats in Orange County — the birthplace of Richard M. Nixon and modern-day conservatism. The party also won supermajorities in the California Assembly and Senate, while the party’s candidate for governor — Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor — easily turned back a Republican challenge. Democrats control every statewide elected position in California.

Before this election, the 53-member California congressional delegation included 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans. Assuming Mr. Valadao keeps his lead, after this year’s midterms it will be 45 Democrats and eight Republicans.

Mr. Cisneros and Ms. Kim were competing for the seat left open after Representative Ed Royce, who has represented the area since 1993, decided not to seek re-election. Mr. Cisneros won by about 3,500 votes, receiving 50.8 percent of the votes cast.

Mr. Cisneros is a former Navy officer who became a millionaire after winning the California state lottery in 2010. He and his wife turned to philanthropy after that. He is a former Republican who left the party in 2008 to become a Democrat.

Another Republican, Representative Darrell Issa, who represented San Diego and Orange Counties, also decided not to seek re-election in what clearly was a challenging political environment for Republicans, given Mr. Trump’s unpopularity and demographic shifts in Southern California.

Democrats easily captured Mr. Issa’s seat as Mike Levin, an environmental lawyer, defeated Diane Harkey, a Republican and former member of the Assembly.

Before this election, the 53-member California congressional delegation included 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans. Assuming Mr. Valadao keeps his lead, after this year’s midterms it will be 45 Democrats and eight Republicans.

Mr. Cisneros and Ms. Kim were competing for the seat left open after Representative Ed Royce, who has represented the area since 1993, decided not to seek re-election. Mr. Cisneros won by about 3,500 votes, receiving 50.8 percent of the votes cast.

Mr. Cisneros is a former Navy officer who became a millionaire after winning the California state lottery in 2010. He and his wife turned to philanthropy after that. He is a former Republican who left the party in 2008 to become a Democrat.

Another Republican, Representative Darrell Issa, who represented San Diego and Orange Counties, also decided not to seek re-election in what clearly was a challenging political environment for Republicans, given Mr. Trump’s unpopularity and demographic shifts in Southern California.

Democrats easily captured Mr. Issa’s seat as Mike Levin, an environmental lawyer, defeated Diane Harkey, a Republican and former member of the Assembly.

On some level, the Democratic victory in what had once been the center of Republican power in California should not come as a surprise. In addition to defeating President Trump by some four million votes overall in California, Hillary Clinton also beat Trump by roughly 100,000 votes in Orange County. To put that into context, that was the first time that a Democrat had won Orange County, California since Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a second term in 1936. From 1940 going forward to every Presidential election up to and including President Obama’s bid for a second term in 2012, Democrats had failed to capture the Republican stronghold in a Presidential election and the area, including neighboring counties around San Diego, had been the source of Republican strength in California for seventy years. The map at the top of this post from MSNBC makes clear just how complete the transformation of what had been a Republican stronghold has completely evaporated.

The reasons for the Republican setbacks in Orange County aren’t entirely different from those that have cause the party to lose support in the Golden State as a whole over the past twenty years. For many years, Orange County resisted the demographic trends that were helping to turn California blue starting twenty years ago. In that respect, it was only a matter of time before reality started setting in for Orange County Republicans and that reality came on Election Night 2018.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Congress, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In that respect, it was only a matter of time before reality started setting in for Orange County Republicans and that reality came on Election Night 2018.

    Reality is just another word for Fake News!, Doug

  2. Kathy says:

    So much winning!!!

    Doubleplusgood!

  3. Tony W says:

    I have an old colleague in that area who is a big Trump supporter – his circle of friends are plotting how best to get out of California now that it has become a “cesspool of liberalism”.

  4. Kylopod says:

    Alternate Headline: Orange County Wipes Out Its Orange Stain.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    The reason is very simple: racism. OC has seen a big influx of immigrants, especially from the subcontinent and Asia, as well as Mexico, where folks tend to be of the not-white persuasion. You might think a bunch of Indian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese immigrants would be socially conservative and inclined toward entrepreneurship, thus naturals for the GOP. And they would be, except for that lack of whiteness that is so terribly important to Republicans.

    But hey, thanks GOP. Thanks for giving the Democratic Party whole new constituencies. I like this deal. The GOP can have the old, rural white people and we’ll take all the groups that are actually growing rather than dying off.

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    This was inevitable due to the ever more obvious failures of Republicans to actually govern. The Atlantic had a pretty good article about Newt Gingrich the other day, and you can also listen to an interview with the author on Terry Gross’ show. The central theme was about how Gingrich took over the party by essentially tossing out governance and replacing it with a constant stream of invective and manufactured grievance. It’s all interesting but I think that bit about tossing out governance gets minimized. The Republican Party has become the home for people who, for some bizarre reason, want to be in government but have no interest in governing. For the most part they barely even nod towards reality but every once in a while some goombahs come along that actually believe their incredibly simplistic nonsense about how all you have to do is get government out of the way and lower taxes and there will be an explosion of new jobs, the environment will magically get better (because, Capitalism!) and the health care system will become cheaper and easier to navigate. And that gets you the mess that is modern day Kansas. But for the most part the modern Republican Party is happy to just ignore policy and let government gradually degrade and decay.

    Unfortunately for the Repubs (but fortunately for the country) some states have a citizenry that is used to things actually working. They are used to water projects and fire prevention projects and clean drinking water and schools that actually teach something, instead of becoming little more than a cage match between creationists, anti-LGBT crusaders, prayer in school litigators and, of course, more money for the 6000 seat high school football stadium and making sure those $21K/year teachers don’t get above themselves. So even Orange County eventually says enough is enough. It helps that the current leader of the Repubs is so obviously a pathetic blowhard, a loser and a laughingstock. But the rest of CA tossed the Tea Party Publicans out and it was inevitable that the OC would follow.

    Unfortunately I don’t think there is much chance for the more hard core Trump states to follow. Places like Mississippi and Alabama have demonstrated for two centuries that the only thing they expect from government is help in keeping the darkies down. And ever since the Civil Rights realignment, the Republican Party is the one that has their back.

  7. Liberal Capitalist says:

    This is wonderful news for people that love to sit around and bi#ch about how this country is going to hell-in-a-handbasket.

    For the rest of us, it’s just moving forward. And a Sunday.

  8. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    As a white guy living in CA49, I’d note an additional effect of this influx of immigrants. Familiarity with these other races just destroys the white supremacy argument. There’s just no way a reasonably open-minded person can experience the wondrous foods, storied cultures, focused ethics and generous spirits of the people of these other countries and still hold the idea that whites have a leg up.

  9. al Ameda says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The central theme was about how Gingrich took over the party by essentially tossing out governance and replacing it with a constant stream of invective and manufactured grievance. It’s all interesting but I think that bit about tossing out governance gets minimized. The Republican Party has become the home for people who, for some bizarre reason, want to be in government but have no interest in governing.

    No one can be surprised that Trump and his Philistines do as they please: roll back clean air and clean water regulations, deregulation of coal ash, open federal lands to resource exploitation, reduce the amount of lands designated as nationally protected sites, divert federal resources from public to private schools, unilaterally abrogate treaties and agreements with (formerly) trusted allies, etc. etc. etc.

    Two full generations of Republican voters have binge-ed out on a steady diet of “government is the problem’ and the result is GOP campaign photo-ops with angry white guys waving signs like ‘Keep Government Out of My Medicare.’

  10. Tyrell says:

    @al Ameda: So this translates into more regulations, higher taxes, more illegal immigrants, more crime, and more people living on the sidewalks.
    The Socialist Republic of California.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    Reagan would be considered a RINO now anyway. Wimp compromised with Tip O’Niel.

  12. JohnMcC says:

    @Gustopher: I give Mr Reagan sufficient lack of values and capacity to sniff out votes to have succeeded quite well in todays R-party, myself.

  13. Tyrell says:

    @Gustopher: I want to go back to the days when they worked out deals in smoke filled rooms over good Kentucky bourbon and fine cigars.

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  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I can’t speak for people from India because I haven’t lived there, but Koreans have lots of experience with conservatism that can jaundice their view toward the desirability of it as a political philosophy. That American conservatism is particularly venal, callous, and craven certainly doesn’t help advance it though.

    ETA: On the other hand, one of my Korean friends who I would have viewed as more progressive was singing the “my taxes are too high” song on my last visit, so conservatism may be ready for a comeback.

  15. Kylopod says:

    OT – Trump just went there. He, literally, just described himself as the greatest president in all of US history. Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt, St. Ronnie…step aside.

    “I would give myself, I would — look, I hate to do it, but I will do it — I would give myself an A+. Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?” Trump replied…. “Well, accurate is that nobody’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president. That I can tell you,” he said.

    https://www.aol.com/article/news/2018/11/18/trump-rates-his-presidency-a-is-that-enough-can-i-go-higher-than-that/23592937/

  16. Echo Sierra says:

    John Cix, Republican for Governor, won Orange County.