4 Lessons From The Southern California House Seats Republicans Reclaimed In 2020 – LAist

3December 2020

Before the COVID-19 pandemic cut in-person campaign events, Republican Young Kim (CA-39) fulfilled residents at a restaurant in Brea. (Josie Huang/LAist)

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The Republican Party can sometimes seem like an afterthought in California, where Democrats hold every statewide office and super-majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly.

When the 2018 Blue Wave swept seven GOP members of Congress out of office, experts wondered if the left had wrested permanent control of even the locations of the Golden State that released the careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

2020 informed a different story. Republican politicians are celebrating success in 4 of the seats they lost two years back– and throughout the nation, the GOP managed surprise gains in a year when Democrats were forecasted to expand their House bulk.

Now, Republican Party officials are working to obtain lessons for holding onto purple districts in the 2022 midterms.


In Southern California, effective Republican challengers outraised Democratic incumbents during the 2020 cycle. Young Kim had a $1.5 million fundraising edge over Democratic incumbent Gil Cisneros in the 39th District, for example– a huge change from 2018, when Cisneros had the ability to outspend Kim almost 6-to-1. (That district spans parts of 3 counties, mostly Orange.)

“In California, our media markets are really pricey. And in 2018, we were greatly outspent,” stated Fred Whitaker, chair of the Orange County Republican Party. “We required to make certain that our prospects were competitive and could be on the airwaves.”

In Orange County’s 48th District, Michelle Steel raised a couple hundred thousand dollars more than incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda. In 2018, the Democrat’s more than $5 million benefit blew questionable Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher out of the water.

“This year, a great deal of the Democratic money went to the Midwest, for their efforts to fight the president,” Whitaker kept in mind.

Outside money still preferred Democrats in both of the Orange County House races that the GOP turned, nevertheless, especially in the 48th, where Steel faced a lopsided pile of independent expenses, consisting of major ad purchases from the Nancy Pelosi-aligned House Majority PAC.

In the 25th District in northern L.A. County and eastern Ventura County, Democrats couldn’t reap the benefits of independent expenses like they did when an avalanche of money streamed into the race in 2018.

State Assemblymember Christy Smith directly stopped working to knock off Republican incumbent Mike Garcia, who won by a margin of 333 votes. He had served simply a couple of months in office after a special election win in Might.

Independent expenditures this cycle advantaged Garcia by more than a million dollars. That’s considerable, however in 2018, then-candidate Democrat Katie Hill enjoyed at least a $4.5 million leg-up in spending by outdoors groups, consisting of $5 million from the Michael Bloomberg Super PAC, Independence U.S.A..

In 2018, Hill’s campaign fundraising almost quadrupled that of her opponent, incumbent Steve Knight, while this year Smith raised $3 million less than Garcia.

The Bloomberg money vanished from the 25th District race this year. (The bulk of the billionaire’s political investments during the presidential election appears to have actually gone to an ill-fated attempt to win Florida, Ohio and Texas for Joe Biden.)


Of course, money constantly plays a role in politics and assists political leaders get convincing messaging out to voters. It likewise assists drive turnout. In 2020, L.A. and Orange Counties paralleled the national citizen participation surge– and more people voting is typically considered a favorable sign for Democratic prospects.

That wasn’t the case in the 3 Southern California House districts Republicans picked up this year. (The 4th seat picked up by Republicans is in the Central Valley, where Republican David Valadao recovered the seat he lost to Democrat TJ Cox in 2018.)

Each race saw 90-100,000 more total ballots cast than in the 2018 midterms. In the 39th District, for example, Republican Young Kim got 55,000 more votes than she did two years ago.Context matters: in 2018, California Democrats were fired up tosend out a message to Donald Trump; and Jerry Brown was called out of office, putting a gubernatorial race on the tally. Republican Mike Garcia(left)speak to a voter after a dispute at the Republican Value Center in Simi Valley on Feb. 8, 2020. (Libby Denkmann/LAist)The GOP didn’t have as much to animate its base, with Trump’s reelection quote years away and the Republican prospect for Guv, John

Cox, was not viewed as much of a competitor for the statewide office.”In 2018, the Democrats had the ability to nationalize the race around an issue that worked to their benefit, which was healthcare, “stated Louis DeSipio, teacher of political science at UC Irvine.”2020 was more muddled, with the presidential race absorbing a great deal of the popular attention. “One theory is that the 2018 Blue Wave may have been strengthened by a lackluster California Republican electorate , which reappeared for the 2020 presidential contest, proving these districts are still really competitive. SPLIT-TICKET VOTING There’s some proof that a significantly rare phenomenon played a role in the GOP recovering House seats this election:”ticket splitting,”or choosing one party for a significant office like the presidency and another party further down the ballot.Ben Christopher with CalMatters found that in the 48th District

in coastal O.C., 1 in 10 precincts chose the GOP congressional prospect, Michelle Steel, however likewise chose Joe Biden for President. A growing number of independents in Orange County, who surpass registered Republicans, may be open to choosing a check-and-balance between the executive
and legal branch, DeSipio stated.”An anti-Trump position didn’t always equate to an anti-Republican position at the congressional level,”he added. Torunn Sinclair with the National Republican Congressional Committee argues Trump’s impact on competitive House races was a net positive. He got 1.5 million more votes statewide than he did in 2016.” I do think President Trump was useful. When he’s on the tally, you get turnout, “Sinclair stated. “These voters liked the message that [Republican prospects]

were spreading, which is one of low taxes and getting the economy back up and running. And the Democrats needed to operate on their records.”VARIED CANDIDATES There’s higher gender, ethnic and racial diversity among newly-elected Republican members of the House. The GOP prospects who turned Southern California House seats are a key part of that shift: Young Kim and Michelle Steel are both Korean American,

and Mike Garcia is Mexican American. Party strategists say it’s a no-brainer in California to recruit prospects who show the diversity of their districts. Kim and Steel are likewise knowledgeable chosen officials, having actually acted as state legislators and county supervisor. They entered into the race with name I.D. and a base of support. Big picture: nationwide, there will be 19 Republican freshmen ladies serving in the House next term, along with a record number of female GOP members in general in the House and Senate. The gains could be partially due to a years-long effort to develop a pipeline for Republican ladies– to recruit and train them as prospects, and provide money early to help them get a grip in primaries. O.C. Manager Michelle Steele defeated Congressman Harley Rouda, D-Newport Beach, in the 48th District. (California National Guard, Senior Citizen Airman Crystal Housman )But there’s still absolutely nothingon the conservative side of the aisle on par with EMILY’s List or other powerful liberal organizations that support Democratic ladies running for office. The Republican Party in Congress is still overwhelmingly white, and there are 3 times as numerous Democratic ladies in the House and Senate as Republican ladies. WHAT’S NEXT? Down-ballot, leads to the California legislature were a mixed bag: Republicans picked up a seat in the state Assembly, however lost two fiercely objected to state Senate races, both in Orange County. In the 37th District, Democrat David Minutes defeated

incumbent State Senator John Moorlach; in the 29th District, previous state Senator Josh Newman took his old job back, besting incumbent Republican Ling Ling Chang, who joined the

legislature after Newman was ousted in a recall. In local races overlapping with objected to House districts, Orange County Democrats turned the Irvine City board, however Republicans safeguarded their 4-1 bulk on the O.C. Board of Supervisors. The GOP is wanting to gain from this year’s wins to make more gains in the 2022 midterms. Meanwhile, the party is gearing up to attempt and keep control of

the Orange County Board of Supervisors seat left empty by Michelle Steel, and party leaders are keeping an eye on the possible result of redistricting, which is anticipated to get rid of one or more House seats in the California delegation.”A president’s very first midterm is typically not good for their party,”Whitaker kept in mind.” There’s going to be an extreme Republican effort to take the House– we’re just 12 seats away.”Source: laist.com

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