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Orange County Democrats Hope Asian-American Influx Will Shore up Blue Wave

South Vietnamese flag (Nick de la Torre / Associated Press)
Nick de la Torre / Associated Press
Newport Beach, CA

Orange County Democrats are hoping that Asian-American voters will provide the votes necessary for a “blue wave” to crash across Republican-held districts — and avoid a shutout in key primary races for Congress.

Democrats are less confident of winning several districts that are currently represented by Republicans, but where Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 election.

Several months ago, voter enthusiasm, polls, and fundraising tended to suggest Republicans were in trouble. But a glut of Democratic candidates and a surge in Republican activism around repealing the gas tax and resisting the state’s “sanctuary” laws has Democrats worried.

It is possible that, because of the state’s “top two” or “jungle” primary system, under which the top finishers in the primary qualify for the general election regardless of party, Democrats could be entirely shut out of the November race in three Orange County districts: the 39th, 48th, and 49th.

In the 45th district, incumbent Republican Rep. Mimi Walters was thought to be in trouble, thanks to Hillary Clinton’s strong performance in the district and also because of the leftward trend of Asian-American voters. The district is now 21 percent Asian.

But the four Democrats competing for the seat have spent millions of dollars in attacking each other.

Walters has raised about $2.5 million and is running a very positive campaign. She has over $1 million in the bank, and the district is now rated by the Cook Political Report as leaning Republican.

On Sunday, the New York Times highlighted how Democrats could still pull off a “blue wave” in Orange County because one-fifth of registered voters are Asian, a third are Hispanic, and 45 percent of homes now speak a language other than English.

Asians do register to vote at about the same percentage as other groups in the U.S. But the progressive Pacific Standard laments that despite being America’s fastest-growing racial minority, according to the Pew Center in 2016, Asian voter turnout is only 47 percent, far below the 66 percent for black voters and 64 percent for non-Hispanic white voters.

Unfortunately for Democrats, Orange County’s highly motivated Asian-American voters in communities like Garden Grove’s Little Saigon, Buena Park’s Koreatown, and Irvine’s Asian neighborhoods tend to hate the Democrats’ big government intrusiveness, since many escaped from communist regimes.

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