As midterm election results continue to roll in from California, the extent of the Republican rout on the West Coast is becoming apparent. At this point, it looks as though Democrat gains in the House will be a net increase of 38 seats. Almost 20 percent of these gains come from the West Coast and many are in the one-time Republican stronghold of Orange County, California where Republican congressional districts were wiped out.
Prior to the election, Republicans held four of the six seats in the suburban Los Angeles county. The 46th and 47th districts were previously Democratic districts, but the remainder of the county has traditionally been Republican.
The Democratic gains in Orange County were mixed between picking up Republican open seats and knocking off GOP incumbents. Dana Rohrabacher, the 48th district congressman widely considered to be the most pro-Kremlin Republican, lost to Democrat Harley Rouda and Republican Mimi Walters in the 45th district was defeated by Katie Porter. In the 49th district, Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight committee, famous for his investigations of Benghazi and Fast and Furious, announced his retirement and saw his seat flip to the Democrats as Mike Levin defeated Diane Harkey. In the 39th district, another Republican retirement cleared the way for Democrat Gil Cisneros to defeat Republican Young Kim.
The Orange County Republican rout is similar to the Republican difficulties in the rest of the country. Orange County is heavily suburban and has a declining population of whites, which make up only 42 percent of the population per California Demographics. Hispanics comprise 34 percent of county residents while 19 percent are Asian. Exit polls show that nationally less than 30 percent of those minority groups voted Republican.
Democrats also flipped two other California congressional districts in California. The 10th district in Turlock, north of San Francisco, and the 25th district in Palmdale, on the north side of LA, both voted out Republican incumbents.
A seventh West Coast district, Washington’s 8th, home to Rep. Dave Reichert, another retiring Republican, is being replaced by Democrat Josh Harder. At this point, Democrats control seven of Washington’s 10 congressional districts. The third district, represented by Republican Herrera Beutler, is now the only Republican district on the entire West Coast that borders on the Pacific Ocean.
There were no flipped seats in Oregon, but four of the state’s five districts were already Democrat. Only Gregg Walden’s second district, which covers the inland two-thirds of the state, is represented by a Republican.
If the Republicans want to take back the House, they will have to become more competitive in suburban House districts like those in Orange County. Reversing this year’s losses will also require that the GOP overcome the current trend of declining minority support.