After decades as a safe harbor for Republican politicians, then a big swing to the left in 2018, this year’s election results reveal that Orange County– unlike much of the rest of California– remains quite in play for both political parties at all levels of government.
“The majority of the regional districts are now competitive enough that the ripple of huge national swings is most likely to be felt in the county’s election results,” said Kevin Wallsten, government professor at Cal State Long Beach.
That suggests when Democrats have a good year nationally, they’ll likely have a good year in Orange County. And when Republicans rise, they stay competitive adequate to win back some seats.
And so in this most confounding of years, where Democrats have actually clinched the White House however lost ground in your home and the Senate remains uncertain, Orange County’s results appear to offer a similarly mixed bag.
One thing seems clear: 2018’s blue wave wasn’t a fluke. Joe Biden has claimed 137,155 more O.C. votes than Trump up until now– a much wider margin than Hillary Clinton got over Trump in O.C. in 2016. And Democrats are still quickly holding a majority of regional House seats.
However, with the caveat that vote counts over the next week still might alter the races, 2 county House seats presently are on track to swing back from blue to red, while Democrats do not appear placed to take any of the state seats or the county seat they invested greatly to flip.
Democrats are faring much better at the regional level, declaring a majority of county school board seats for the first time and turning numerous major cities over not simply to Democrats, however to new progressive bulks.
Professionals who track regional politics state party matters in Orange County. However they include that candidates and their projects also matter, and that many regional voters obviously want to divide their ticket if candidates do not measure up.
In the overlapping 39th Congressional District and 29th State Senate District, which cover a swath of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, voters are poised to boot their Democratic House incumbent, Gil Cisneros, and replace him with Republican Young Kim. Numerous of those exact same voters also appear to be ousting their Republican state senator, Ling Ling Chang, and giving the seat to Democrat Josh Newman.
In such deeply divided times, Scott Spitzer, government professor at Cal State Fullerton, said maybe the truth that not everybody seems voting down the party isn’t such a bad thing.
“The bright side is that, even with the bigger picture being we’re so partisan therefore politicized, a good candidate from the Republican Party in a place like Orange County can still punch through the growing power on the Democratic side, or a bad candidate on the Democratic side can still lose,” Spitzer said. “And that is essential.”
Financial resources also are at play. Kim had a better-funded project than Cisneros, for example, while Chang was at a major disadvantage compared to Newman.
Identity politics might also be a factor, said long time Newport Beach pollster Adam Probolsky, with both Kim and fellow Korean American Michelle Steel– a Republican politician who’s on track to potentially flip back the 48th District seat held by Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda– interesting the large population of Asian American voters who reside in their districts.
While the race for CA-48 was constantly anticipated to be close, because voter registration in the district still leans red, Wallsten said the greatest surprise for him in O.C. results up until now is that Cisneros is tracking Kim in CA-39.
“I believe many people assumed that this district, which was traditionally a safe seat for Republican politicians, would continue trending towards the Democrats into the foreseeable future offered the basic leftward drift of the location’s politics,” Wallsten said.
Fullerton College government professor Jodi Balma said with the coronavirus holding down the economy some Republicans and independents who do not like Trump still voted with their pocketbooks in mind in regional elections.
Other than the CA-39 race, Wallsten said the primary surprise in O.C. results so far was the lack of surprises.
”Offered the unanticipated success of Republicans in congressional races in other parts of the country, I have actually been surprised that we haven’t seen any huge upsets in your area. The lead to the O.C. have actually been in-line with the more comprehensive political shifts we have actually been enjoying unfold over the last few election cycles.”
Wallsten said the greatest shift of the 2018 midterm– Democrats sweeping seven House seats in as soon as deeply Republican Orange County– has created a still open concern: Were county voters simply outraged by Donald Trump, or are have they moved left?
The 2020 results, he included, suggest the latter.
“What most of these results reveal is that the O.C. is a ‘blue’ county now, where Republican politicians will be underdogs in regional, state and federal elections. Simply put, results like these are part of the ‘new normal’ in O.C. politics.”
When it comes to regional races, considering that voters typically do not have a lot of information or pay much attention to them, Wallsten said they’re best comprehended as proxies for where the areas are in terms of their overall partisanship.
In Irvine, voters appear poised to switch out the long time mayor and half the GOP-dominated council. And Santa Ana voters are on track to introduce a progressive, millennial council.
Probolsky wasn’t at all surprised to see so many regional races go to Democrats because, in his view, they had a much better ground game.
“In Orange County, specifically, boy did Democrats organize well,” he said.
That advantage will be tough for the GOP to match going forward given that in California Democrats typically are much better moneyed than Republicans.
Still, O.C. voters were more conservative when it pertained to many state ballot procedures. For instance, while voters statewide passed a costs to bring back ballot rights to parolees, voters in Orange County opposed it.
Probolsky insists it’s prematurely to know where O.C. politics will settle as soon as the Trump aspect is eliminated.
“We are in a distinct, weird, strange, crazy time. The president was harmful and problematic and had all the problems that you do not want a president to have. Orange County declined him four years ago, 2 years ago, and they’re rejecting him today,” said Probolsky, who is nonpartisan however has long ties to the regional GOP.
“I believe there is going to be a righting of the ship when he’s gone. And we’ll see what Orange County truly appears like in 2 years and four years.”
One aspect might be how much the regional party attempts to distance itself from Trump-brand Republicanism as soon as he’s gone.
That doesn’t look most likely up until now, evaluating by how the Republican Party of Orange County and some regional GOP leaders are enhancing Trump’s unproven claims of election scams as he falls back in vote counts. On Wednesday, Nov. 4, the party provided a fundraising e-mail declaring, without evidence, that “the Democrats and Joe Biden are attempting to steal this election.” It then requested money, stating, “We need your aid to stop the steal from coming to Orange County.”
Two days later State Sen. John Moorlach, who is tracking Democrat Dave Min in his bid for reelection in the 37th District, also recommended in his newsletter that voter scams might be playing a roll in his disappointing showing.
“The unidentified ‘X Element’ in the mix is the quantity of real voter scams,” Moorlach wrote. He pointed out that he ‘d heard from individuals who claimed they received 2 ballots and, though the Registrar won’t accept more than one ballot from the exact same person, he recommended that might be a sign of widespread issues with the election. “Based upon the anecdotal evidence I have actually received from some constituents, I think this concern is a valid one.”
Because Democrats aren’t on track to hold all their House wins from 2018, or make any gains in state seats this year, Spitzer believes they also need to come up with a new political message to win elections going forward.
Like Democrats nationally, the regional Democratic party is divided on an easy concern: Are they being progressive adequate to fire up young and varied voters, or are they leaning too far left already?
Such schisms are something Spitzer said both parties will need to confront, post-election, as they attempt to win over Orange County voters going forward.Source: ocregister.com