A Quick Rundown of Orange County (and a quick note at the end)

This article by the New York Times highlights what we here on the ground already knew: The political winds are turning against the Republicans here. I already detailed this with my two previous diaries, but i want to add another part: the state of the local races here two very competitive Assembly districts.

Recently, Art Pedroza of the Orange Juice Blog recently wrote a scathing criticism of the leadership and the workings of the OC Democratic Party. While i disagree with him on certain issues, he makes a strong point by saying:

Make no mistake about it- the Republican Party of Orange County is the enemy.  They hate Mexicans.  They hate homosexuals.  They hate the poor.  They are corrupt, for the most part.  Stop kissing up to these people!

Now on to the locally contested races:


Challengers: Phu Ngyuen (D) vs Allan Mansoor (R)

Registration: 40.1% Rep./32.7% Dem./21.9% Ind

Analysis: Located in the South-west part of OC, this district is extremely diverse with Hispanic enclave Stanton to the north, down to famed Little Saigon and the ethnically diverse meltingpot known as Costa Mesa. Democrat Phu Ngyuen is running a strong campaign against Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor, who is known for his Joe Arapaio-like bullying of immigrants. Ngyuen was recruited by the Dems for his strong ties to the Vietnamese community, a very competitive voting group and has the backing of the entire OC Democratic Party leaders. According to the Secretary of State, Ngyuen has $136,604 CoH while Mansoor is at a jaw-dropping $8,617! However, this race is still favorable to Mansoor due to his stature in Costa Mesa and the generally pro-Republican lean of 2010. Still, if Ngyuen can pull within single digits, that’s a win in itself.

Rating: Leans Republican


Challengers: Melissa Fox (D) vs Don Wagner (R)

Registration: 42.3% Rep./30% Dem./23% Ind

Analysis: This race is gonna be one to watch on election day. Attorney Melissa Fox is up against Don Wagner, a member of the Coastal Community College District and a vocal social conservative. This district is open after Chuck DeVore’s pathetic attempt to beat Carly Fiorina in the Republican Senate race. Fox has been hitting the ground hard, running a stellar grassroots campaign and recently won the Democracy for America’s Allstar Grassroots campaign. However her fundraising is small, having raised only around $27,000 and having an anemic $7,747. But Wagner manages to beat (or stump below?) that, having raised $163,208 he is now at an amazing….$425. Yes, four-hundred and twenty-five dollars. But to be fair, he did face a very crowded Republican Primary, where he was the underdog against favorite Steven Choi, an Irvine Councilman. The folks at Orange Juice and the Liberal OC have been relentlessly going after Wagner since the campaign’s started. It amazes me that even though this district, with its large Republican registration, not only voted for Obama (51-47) but against! Prop 8 (50-50 narrowly) and yet they keep giving us Chuck DeVore-style religious wacko’s like Wagner. Nevertheless, my heart says this race is a Tossup but my mind tells me its another Leans R, but i’m letting my heart win for today.

Rating: Tossup

For those who are interested, here’s some links:

http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Ca… — Secretary of State’s Website for Campaign Funds

http://orangejuiceblog.com — In my opinion, the best place for knowledge on OC politics. Some posters have libertarian tendencies (such as Art Pedroza) while others are solid progressives (like Vern Nelson), but its still a very telling website to learn more on OC Politics.

http://votemelissafox.com — Melissa Fox, Democratic Nominee for AD-70

http://votephu.com — Phu Ngyuen, Democratic Nominee for AD-68

(Note: Wednesday is my first day of school (go juniors!), so my presence on SSP will be limited. But i’ll be back as much as i can to catch up on any delicious cat fud that may appear and of course i’ll stay for the November elections, so this may be my final (diary) post for a while. =)

(Note 2: This post was intended to focus on all local OC races, but i only picked AD-68 and AD-70 because of the competitiveness and visibility it has gotten.)

Analyzing Orange County: Why America’s Most Conservative County is Trending Blue (part 2/2)

For part 2, i stick to mainly text (sorry, no pretty graphics this time) to describe in detail how the Democratic trends in Orange County coincide with the overall social views on LGBT rights and Abortion.

While John McCain narrowly won Orange County, a so called bastion of conservatism (In fact, other than the Central Valley and parts of North Country, Orange County is indeed the only Republican turf left in the LA Area), support for Propositions 8 and 4 (A measure making underage pregnant women have to get permission seeking an Abortion) were higher at 58 and 55%, respectively. Why the stark difference between the two? Well, if you think it has to do with self-identified Republican voters, you’re half right, follow me below the fold.

While its a certainty that some Republicans and Independents crossed over to vote for Barack Obama, they were also instrumental in passing Props 4 and 8. But another extremely significant voting group helped as well: Hispanics. I was going to make a map (like the one with presidential results earlier) showing support/opposition to these ballot initatives, but its very easy to tell where support came from. Cities like Santa Ana, a “sanctuary” city home to a large (if not, massive) Hispanic population, voted overwhelmingly for not only Obama, but for Props 4 and 8.

First, let’s look at the so called “Blue” cities, that voted for Obama but for 4 and 8, the Yes/No results show how strongly the vote was for/against using the whole county as a baseline average:

Santa Ana:

Obama/McCain: 66/32

%Hispanic: 78%

Y/N Prop 4: 62/38 (+7 YES)

Y/N Prop 8: 62/38 (+4 YES)


Obama/McCain: 51/47

%Hispanic: 48%

Y/N Prop 4: 59/41 (+4 YES)

Y/N Prop 8: 61/39 (+3 YES)

Buena Park:

Obama/McCain: 52/46

%Hispanic: 35%

Y/N Prop 4: 61/39 (+6 YES)

Y/N Prop 8: 62/38 (+4 YES)

These three cities were essential for President Obama’s near-victory here, but they weren’t the only surprises on election day. Next, i look at cities that voted for John McCain, but voted against or narrowly for these propositions.

Huntington Beach:

Obama/McCain: 45/53

Y/N Prop 4: 49/51 (-6 NO)

Y/N Prop 8: 53/47 (-5 YES)

Newport Beach:

Obama/McCain: 40/58

Y/N Prop 4: 47/53 (-8 NO)

Y/N Prop 8: 51/49 (-7 YES)

Dana Point:

Obama/McCain: 47/51

Y/N: 49/51 (-6 NO)

Y/N: 51/49 (-7 YES)

Newport Beach is strongly Republican, over 50% of its registered voters are Republicans, yet it opposed Proposition 4 (thus affirming a Pro-Choice stance) and barely supported Prop 8, all-the-while giving an 18-point victory to John McCain, while Huntington and Dana Point show similar, yet slightly more favorable results on both.

What does this all mean? Well, while Hispanics are generally pro-Democratic, notice extremely carefully that they aren’t pro-Liberal, and their Catholic views on Abortion and gay rights are in line with typical social conservatives. But, there is also a “country club” force in Orange County, the fiscal hawks who are in total agreement with the Tea Partiers, but are increasingly disillusioned with the Christian-right faction of the Republican Party. To sum it up: don’t just look on the surface to find your electoral answers for these voters, you have to dig further. It’s going to be interesting what the electorate will look like come 2012.

The Republicans’ problem is what they say, not how they say it

The State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa picked a new party chairman yesterday. The winner was Matt Strawn, a former Congressional staffer best known as part of the group that owns the Iowa Barnstormers arena football team.

I’ve written more at Bleeding Heartland about the challenges facing Strawn as he takes over the divided Republican Party of Iowa, so I won’t go into too much detail about Iowa politics here.

I thought the Swing State Project community would be interested in Strawn’s promise to use technology to improve Republicans’ standing with younger voters:

Strawn, 35, noted that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama beat Republican John McCain by 2-1 among young adults in Iowa. He said part of the problem is Republicans have failed to use modern communications methods, such as Twitter and Facebook. People are left with the impression that the party either doesn’t know how to use those channels or doesn’t care to, he said. “Either way, we’re sending a terrible message.” […]

Strawn said at a press conference that he would reach out to all age groups as he seeks to build up party registrations, raise money and recruit strong candidates for office. He vowed to regain the majorities in both houses of the Legislature, win back the governorship and make gains in Congress.

He said Republicans could do all those things without watering down the party’s conservative priorities. “If we communicate our beliefs, we can win elections,” he said.

There’s no question that the Republican Party lost young voters by large margins in 2006 and 2008, and not just in Iowa. This map created by Mike Connery shows that if only voters aged 18-29 had cast ballots for president, John McCain would have won fewer than ten states.

Republicans should be asking themselves why young voters are rejecting their candidates in such large numbers. It wasn’t always this way. When I was growing up in the 1980s, the Republican Party did quite well with the 18-30 age group, including college students. In fact, my age cohort is still relatively strong for Republicans. (A chart in this post shows the presidential vote among young Americans for the past 30 years.)

Strawn’s answer is that the GOP’s failure to fully exploit new technology is “sending a terrible message” to young voters. He won over State Central Committee members in part thanks to a technologically savvy online campaign (a blog with occasional YouTube video postings).

I sincerely hope that Republicans continue to believe that their recent election losses are rooted in communication problems. I think the Republicans’ ideology is what turns off young voters. The tendency for Republicans to campaign on “culture war” issues exacerbates this problem, highlighting the topics that make the party seem out of touch to younger voters.

Some Republicans want their candidates to emphasize economic issues more and downplay divisive social issues. Shortly after the election, Doug Gross discussed the Republican Party’s problems on Iowa Public Television. Gross worked for Republican Governors Bob Ray and Terry Branstad in the 1970s and 1980s, and he was the Republican nominee for governor against Tom Vilsack in 2002. Gross had this advice for Republican candidates:

What we really have to do is speak to the fundamental issues that Iowans care about which is I’m working hard every day, in many cases a couple of jobs, my wife works as well, we take care of our kids and yet the government is going to increase our taxes, they’re going to increase spending and they’re going to give that to somebody who is not working.  That kind of message will win for republicans among the people we have and we’ve gotten away from that.  

Ah yes, the glory days, when Republicans could win by running against “tax and spend” Democrats who supposedly took money away from hard-working Americans and gave it to “welfare queens” and other unemployed ne’er-do-wells.

I am not convinced that this is a winning message anymore. Nationwide exit polling from the most recent election showed that a majority of voters believe government should do more, not less. The same exit poll found Barack Obama won even though most people believed Republican claims that he would raise taxes.

Moreover, rising unemployment is not just an issue for lower-income or blue-collar workers. Layoffs are also hitting groups that have trended toward the Democratic Party in the last decade: suburban dwellers, white-collar professionals and college-educated whites generally. Even in affluent neighborhoods, just about everyone knows someone who has been laid off in the past six months. Government assistance to the unemployed may be more popular now than it was in the 1980s.

Losing your job means losing your health insurance for many Americans, which is particularly scary for those who have “pre-existing conditions.” More and more people are delaying routine preventive care and treatment for chronic conditions in this tough economy. Other families have been devastated after a private insurance company denied coverage for expensive, medically necessary procedures.

I believe that the problems with our health care system are another reason that Republican “small government” rhetoric has less salience now than it did 20 years ago.

As I’ve written before, Republican prospects for a comeback may have less to do with new GOP leadership than with how well the Democrats govern. If Democrats do well, they will keep winning elections. If they screw up, the Republicans may rebound no matter what party leaders do at the RNC or in contested states like Iowa.

On the other hand, if Republicans want to do more than sit back and wait for Democrats to self-destruct, they will need to acknowledge that their problems go beyond communication skills. Many conservative beliefs are outside the American mainstream. I don’t think the Republican Party can twitter and YouTube its way out of the hole they’re in, especially when it comes to younger voters.