2018 primaries show once-red Orange County trending toward Democrats

Katie Porter (center) is running against Congresswoman Mimi Walters

An analysis of voting patterns in recent primaries shows Republicans like Congresswoman Mimi Walters and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher are facing strong headwinds this year.

Orange County saw a dramatic increase in voter participation in the 2018 primaries, and voters favored Democrats more strongly than any point in recent history.

As more data comes in, it’s easy to see why Republicans like Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (Costa Mesa) and Mimi Walters (Irvine) are considered vulnerable in 2018.

Orange County had the highest voter turnout for a mid-term election in 16 years during the recent primaries. “Prior to Election Day, Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said he anticipated turnout at between 27 percent and 30 percent of the 1.48 million active registered voters,” reports the Voice of OC. “But the election had the largest mid-term primary election turnout since 2002, when 41.4 percent of the county’s active voters cast ballots, according to the Registrar of Voters online archives.”

As more voters came to the polls, the percentage of votes for Republicans dropped fairly dramatically, according to an analysis from the L.A. Times.

In California’s 45th Congressional District, currently represented by Walters, the percentage of voters opting for a Republican dropped an astounding 16 points compared to 2014.

Conversely, voters pulling the lever for a Democratic candidate increased by 15 points during the same time period, from 28 percent to 43 percent.

Walters has been dogged by her unwavering support of Trump’s extreme agenda, as well as her votes on unpopular Republican legislation such as the tax bill and repeal of the popular Affordable Care Act.

Rohrabacher’s district saw a similar drop in votes for a Republican (15 point drop since 2014) and just as dramatic an increase for Democrats (14 points). And even more troubling for Rohrabacher: He received the lowest percent of the vote of all 12 California Republicans seeking re-election. Fewer than 1 in 3 voters opted for Rohrabacher, who has made news recently for both his unusual support of Russia and his embrace of discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Both races point to an apparent weakening, if not shattering, of the fabled “Orange Curtain.” Orange County was previously a Republican stronghold, supporting Republicans on the national stage for decades — until 2016, when Hillary Clinton became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Orange County in 80 years.

Subsequent polling shows more than 60 percent of Orange County voters disapprove of Trump, leading one political scientist to declare, “It’s one more indication we are no longer a red county.”

Democrats need to gain 23 seats in order to regain control of the House of Representatives, and have set their sights on several seats in and around Orange County.

Higher voter turnout and an increase in voters opting for Democrats in the primaries ensures a national spotlight on these races from now through November.