The most consequential midterm in recent American history (or, if you prefer less hype, yet another big national vote in an age of unrelenting political crankiness) just taught the world a bit about Southern California.
First, we like voting. A lot.
Sure, the whole country was in a voting mood Tuesday – national turnout reportedly was about 37 percent higher than in 2014. But unofficial numbers in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties suggest that more locals cast ballots Tuesday than in any midterm in at least 50 years, indicating a level of interest in politics and faith in the ballot that might not line up with our region’s national reputation.
But, critically, all that voting said something. Here are just a few of the messages we sent:
We’re as tribal as anybody
In theory, facing federal charges of embezzling campaign money, allegedly to run up bar tabs and fly a pet rabbit cross country, could present a hurdle to a politician’s re-election bid.
Not for GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter. On Tuesday, Hunter won California’s 50th Congressional District going away, beating Ammar Campa-Najjar by 8-plus percentage points.
There are multiple reasons for this. Hunter has represented the district, which touches Riverside County but is mostly in eastern San Diego County, for six years. He’s a former Marine and the son of the man who represented voters in the area for 28 years.
Hunter also used his opponent’s racial and family background – Campa-Najjar is of Mexican- and Palestinian-American descent, and the grandson of an international terrorist – in campaign ads.
But Hunter’s biggest advantage might be tribal. He’s a Republican. So are his voters. Cook Political Report rates the district as 11 points more Republican than the national average.
The message? In 2018, in Southern California, tribal pull – no doubt from either side – can be more powerful than a criminal indictment.
Women can be left or right, right?
There were 239 women running for Congress on Tuesday, and two of them were (or appear to be) big winners in Southern California.
Gender, and the fact that both are first-time candidates for the House, are about the only things they share.
Katie Hill is a Democrat who, as of Wednesday, is the next official representative of California’s 25th Congressional District. Her Republican opponent, Rep. Steve Knight, conceded.
Young Kim is a Republican and the current leader to take the open 39th Congressional District, though ballots still to be counted there could give the seat to her opponent, Democrat Gil Cisneros.
Hill, a homeless advocate, is backed by the LGBTQ community in a district that leans Democrat but includes many aerospace workers, traditionally a conservative voting block.
Kim might win as a Republican, even in a district where voter registration recently flipped to favor Democrats. If she holds on, Kim will be the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress.
The message? In Southern California, being a female doesn’t carry any particular political label.
#MeToo doesn’t have to be a political buzzkill
Earlier this year, Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, was accused of drunkenly groping a former aid after a softball game in 2014. The allegation led to condemnation from colleagues, male and female, and an investigation.
A few months later, Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Panorama City, was accused of drugging and fondling a 16-year-old girl in 2007.
On Tuesday, both politicians won their re-election bids (Garcia in the 58th Assembly; Cardenas in the 29th Congressional District) by huge margins.
Both politicians vehemently deny the claims made against them. And, to date, none of the charges have been confirmed.
The lesson? Southern California voters can ignore #MeToo charges if they aren’t proven to be true.
Political money flows in, out
Five of the nation’s 10 most expensive House races Tuesday were in Southern California. Several of the biggest individual campaign contributors – to everything from the U.S. Senate race in Texas to the Florida race for governor – came from Southern California.
The message? In the age of Donald Trump, blue and red means green in Southern California.
We’re back, baby!
Two years ago, millions of Southern California voters were stunned by Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton.
But another outcome of that vote was an also a shock – California had no power. Our huge population (Clinton beat Trump by 4.3 million people in California) and our 55 Electoral College votes, meant nothing. In 2016, the state was mojo-less.
That changed Tuesday.
Some of the Trump administration’s loudest critics in Congress – Reps. Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters, Ted Lieu and Brad Sherman, among others – handily won re-election Tuesday to Southern California House seats.
Now, those four – along with veteran Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Whittier – are in positions to carry out a more enthusiastic version of executive branch oversight. Waters figures to chair the House Committee on Financial Services. Schiff figures to chair the House Intelligence Committee. Lieu, Sherman and Sanchez all sit on other key committees.
The message? Southern California is back in the game.
Source: Orange County Register