Orange County congressional districts gain Democratic majority

After the midterm elections, the majority of congressional districts in Orange County are now held by Democrats. Graphic by Emma Reith

After the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Democrats now hold five out of seven congressional districts in Orange County, two of which were originally held by prominent Republican congressmen Dana Rohrabacher and Darrell Issa.

Rohrabacher is serving his 15th term in the House of Representatives, making him a congressman for almost 30 years. Issa has held his seat in the 49th district since 2001.

Though not all ballots have been counted, Harley Rouda, the Democratic candidate for California’s 48th congressional district, declared victory over Rohrabacher Nov. 10, four days after Election Day. As of Nov. 11, Rouda led Rohrabacher in the polls by four percent, according to the New York Times.

The 48th district has been described as the “deepest-red part of the county” by the Los Angeles Times.

Rouda, who was a Republican from 1980 to 1997, had support from some Democrats as well as independents and moderate Republicans, he told The Panther just over a week before the midterms.

“When I was a Republican … you had Republicans who believed in environmental stewardship, Republicans that believed in a woman’s rights, Republicans who believed in voting rights, Republicans who believed in civil rights, Republicans who believed that moderation was how you moved the country forward,” Rouda said. “It would appear now, based on the current Republican leadership, that all of those things I just mentioned are off the table.”

Democrat Mike Levin also turned Issa’s 49th district blue in his race against Republican Diane Harkey. Levin is a former executive director of the Orange County Democratic Party and former director of government affairs for FuelCell Energy, a clean energy company. This was his first campaign for political office.

Environmental policies and climate change were a central piece of Levin’s campaign. He also supports Medicare for All, raising the California minimum wage to $15 and banning assault weapons and bump stocks.

The 49th district includes both San Diego County and Orange County. San Diego County voters, which account for about three-quarters of the district, put Levin ahead by 12 points. Levin wasn’t as popular in Orange County, which accounts for a quarter of the 49th district. Orange County voters gave Harkey the edge at 56 percent and Levin at 44 percent, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

For years, the 49th district, which spans from La Jolla to Dana Point and includes Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps training facility in the United States, has been “reliably red.”

The district went to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, making it one of 23 districts that voted for a Democratic presidential candidate but put a Republican in the House seat. Issa won reelection in 2016 by only 1,621 votes, according to The Hill.

For the first time in several years, Democrats outnumber Republicans in the San Diego County portion of the 49th district, whereas Republicans still have a majority in the Orange County portion of the district, according to the San Diego Tribune.

The three other Democratic congressional seats in Orange County are held by Linda Sanchez in the 38th district, Lou Correa in the 46th district and Alan Lowenthal in the 47th district, who were all reelected in the midterms.

The two remaining red district congressional seats, which have not yet officially been called, are held by Young Kim, who ran against Democrat Gil Cisneros in the 39th district and incumbent Mimi Walters in the 45th district. Walters ran against Katie Porter, whose campaign centered around fighting for universal healthcare, women’s reproductive rights, gun control and public education.

The gap between Kim and Cisneros and Walters and Porter is narrowing, with Kim and Walters each leading by one point, according to the New York Times.