Two mayors, a prosecutor, a county supervisor, two city council members and a veteran congressman’s chief of staff are among the Republicans seeking to win back Orange County congressional seats from four freshman Democrats in 2020.
Just as their Democratic counterparts had done before the 2018 election, Republican leaders believe—or, at least, say they believe—the incumbents are vulnerable.
Politico agrees when it comes to the 39th Congressional District, calling it one of the “most vulnerable” in California. The seat, which represents parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, was barely won in November by Representative Gil Cisneros (D-Fullerton). His opponent, Young Kim, who was Cisneros predecessor Ed Royce’s chief of staff before the longtime lawmaker retired, recently tossed her hat back into the ring.
In the 45th Congressional District, Representative Katie Porter (D-Irvine) already has these Republicans lining up to take her out: Yorba Linda City Councilwoman Peggy Huang, Laguna Hills City Councilman Don Sedgwick, Mission Viejo Mayor Greg Raths and county prosecutor Ray Gennawey.
On April 25, Orange County Supervisor Michelle Park Steel, who is married to California’s Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel, appeared before business supporters in Los Angeles to announce she will run against 48th Congressional District Representative Harley Rouda (D-Newport Beach).
And in the 49th Congressional District, which covers parts of southern Orange County and northern San Diego County, San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott recently said he’ll challenge Representative Mike Levin (D-Dana Point).
Republicans hold registration edges in those districts, but President Donald Trump’s unpopularity coupled with well-funded ground games helped put Democrats over the top in each . . . once all the ballots were counted.
Besides raising cash, the GOP and its candidates are branding the new Democrats as being too progressive for their constituencies, saying their districts did not turn blue, as portrayed in the media, but purple.
Democrats are countering with registration drives to further close the gap with Republicans and branding the GOP candidates as Trump lackeys, especially Kim and Steel.
“Trump at the top of the ticket is the No. 1 handicap to Republicans in those districts,” Rob Stutzman, a veteran GOP political strategist based in Sacramento, recently told McClatchy News Service. “No question.”
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.