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Orange County: Democrats Target ‘Most Republican County in America’ to Flip House

Orange County flag (Orange County Archives / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
Orange County Archives / Flickr / CC / Cropped
Newport Beach, CA

Democrats claim the key to flipping the House of Representatives in November is targeting four GOP seats in California’s Orange County, formerly the “Most Republican County in America.”

Orange County’s reputation as the Republican’s stronghold was based on the state’s highest percentage registration and its history of voting for the GOP’s candidate for president for 80 years in a row.

Then the “OC” voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Democrats have gone from a 32-seat U.S. House of Representatives majority in 2009 to a 24-seat deficit today. But the Washington Post reported in December that the combination of the president’s party usually losing seats in the House in an off-year election, and the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index finding that the generic Congressional ballot measuring voter preference favored the Democrats recapturing the House, meant a shift was imminent.

The key to Cook’s forecast of a 2018 election tsunami is Democrats taking some of the last 10 remaining Republican-held Congressional seats in California. Four of the Republican seats targeted by Democrats as most vulnerable are in Orange County.

Democrats claim that their Party has increasingly connected withyoung people and Latinos in Orange County over the last three decades. Orange County’s Republican registration fell below 50 percent in 1999 and only ranks 20th among California’s 58 counties. Since 1992, Democrats have also gained ground on Republican registration in every OC city except Seal Beach, Laguna Woods and Los Alamitos.

Of the four four OC Republican seats, Ed Royce is retiring after 26 years; Darrell Issa is retiring after barely surviving a 2016 challenge; Dana Rohrabacher broke with President Trump to vote against the tax cut; and Mimi Walters is facing a strong field of challengers.

Politico predicts that with OC registered voters now one-third Latinos and about one-fifth Asians Democrats could pull an “Orange Crush” and win all four Republican seats.

But Breitbart News reported that Democrats may have too many candidates. Despite raising over $8 million for their primary contests, only one of the 18 faithful candidates achieved the 60 percent required for the Orange County Democrat Party endorsement and only two won the California endorsement.

Orange County Republicans are beginning to look more united than Democrats, and are running candidates with better name recognition. Republicans still hold a 39.7 percent to 34 percent county voter registration lead over Democrats. Most Republican registration losses have gone to the 20 percent of “No-Party-Preference” independents. But many of these tend to be supporting Republican President Trump anti-globalist agenda.

The most vulnerable OC Republican was expected to be retiring Issa. But the very popular chair of the State Board of Equalization, Diane Harkey swept all Republican endorsements; while leading Democrat Doug Applegate — who narrowly lost in 2016 — shockingly failed to win the party’s county or state endorsement.

Incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) is running in a conservative voting district and has the nation’s second highest Liberty rating by Conservative Review. He is challenged by eight Democrats, led by University of California Irvine (UCI) Professor Dr. Hans Keirstead, who failed to win the party’s County endorsement but won state endorsement.

Incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) is being challenged by seven Democrats, led by UCI Law Professor Dave Min, who won both the county and state Democrat Party endorsement. Min should do well in the district, but it may be difficult in this year’s “#metoo” climate for a man to beat an incumbent woman.

The Democrats’ best hopes may be in replacing retiring Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda), whose seat moved from Lean Republican to “Lean Democrat” in January. But three strong Republicans are now running for the seat, including former state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, and former state Assemblywoman Young Kim. Democrat Community College Trustee Jay Chen was expected to be the strongest candidate, but seven other party candidates prevented Chen form getting either the county or state endorsement.

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