2018 voting trends show Congresswoman Walters in serious trouble

Congresswoman Mimi Walters

Voter turnout and historical election data show Democratic candidate Katie Porter could be on track to oust GOP Congresswoman Mimi Walters.

Judging by voter turnout compared to the last midterm election in 2014, California voters are significantly more interested in the 2018 elections. And based on data from previous election cycles, Democrat Katie Porter has a solid chance of ousting vulnerable Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters (Irvine).

The numbers from California’s June primary are almost final, and a New York Times elections expert broke down 2018 primary turnout compared to the 2014 midterm primary and the 2014 general election.

The “obvious lesson” he drew from the comparison was, “there was a massive increase in turnout over 2014, even surpassing the 2014 general election.” He adds that Walters’ district is “toss-up-ish.”

More voters cast ballots in the 2018 primary election (167,957) than in the 2014 general election (162,902), even though primary elections usually have much lower turnout compared to general elections.

Compared to the 2014 primary, almost twice as many voters cast ballots in California’s 45th Congressional District in 2018.

In 2014, Democrats won only 28.9 percent of the primary vote in the 45th Congressional District (excluding third-party candidates). But in 2018 (also excluding third-party candidates), the Democratic share increased to 47.1 percent.

While Walters came away in 2018 with more than half the vote (52.8 percent), election experts caution this performance should be worrying for Walters.

“The general rule in California is that one would expect the primary turnout to be more Republican-leaning than the general election,” says Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

The experts looked at primary and general election vote totals in every California congressional district in 2012, 2014, and 2016, and found a definite and noticeable Democratic shift in general elections. 

In Waters’ district, Democrats saw an average increase of 5.3 percent in the general election compared to the primary. If that average holds in the 2018 general election, Porter would end up with 52.4 percent of the vote, and Walters would be out of a job.

While the analysis looked back at historical averages, the experts also looked ahead through this November, noting, “one would probably expect the average Democratic vote share in most districts to rise from June to November,” and adding this outcome “could help the Democrats in some of their targeted seats in November.”

This analysis was written before the primary election, and in light of the primary results Crystal Ball changed their rating of this race from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up.”

Walters vulnerability in 2018 is highlighted by the fact Hillary Clinton carried the district in 2016. Walters, however, has still fully embraced the Trump agenda in Congress, voting in line with Trump 99 percent of the time, even in cases where those votes could hurt her own constituents.

She backed the Republican effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which would have removed protections for people with pre-existing conditions, implemented an “age tax” for everyone aged 50-64, and  caused 23 million people to lose health insurance.

Walters also backed the unpopular Republican tax bill, which resulted in a massive tax increase for Californians, including Orange County homeowners. Provisions in the bill are pushing up health care premiums across the country and in California.

Voters showed up at high rates for this year’s primary election, and all indications point to even more showing up in November 2018. If history is a guide, Walters looks to be in trouble.