Buyer's Remorse Sets in as GOP Leads in 86% of CA Districts Dems Flipped in 2018


So, remember when Democrats flipped all of those GOP House of Representatives strongholds in California back in 2018?

Remember when it signaled the end of Orange County as a stronghold of the Republican Party?

When Democrat Rep. Katie Hill was Capitol Hill’s next big thing?

If California’s jungle primaries on Tuesday were any indication, that kind of thinking is so 2019.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, total Republican voting in almost of all of the districts that the Democrats flipped was higher than the total Democratic vote. In two of them, Republicans led outright.

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So, here’s a brief, TL;DR primer for those of you who aren’t familiar with how California’s voting system works. They have what’s known as a jungle primary in which both Democrats and Republicans, as well as independents, can enter. The top two vote-getters end up facing off in the general election. This could mean two Republicans, two Democrats, a Democrat and Republican, or potentially some combination involving an independent.

Also unique for California: The fact that it takes votes so long to come in. The Chronicle noted Wednesday that there were “millions of late-arriving mail ballots still uncounted from Tuesday’s election.”

That being said, even with that, the combined Republican vote in six of the districts was higher than the Democrat vote — 86 percent of the districts that got flipped in 2018.

And just in case the Democrats thought they’d flipped The OC’s House seats for good, Orange County was home to three of those districts. The county had four flipped districts total in 2018.

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“On Tuesday night, the waters of the blue wave began to recede … and Republicans showed that we will take back Orange County,” Orange County GOP chairman Fred Whitaker said.

“The pathway to restoring the House of Representatives is through Orange County.”

Democrats were the top vote-getters in three of the four districts, it’s worth pointing out.

Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of the state’s 45th Congressional District took 48 percent of the vote — but that was against a field of six GOP challengers who outpolled her in the aggregate.

Rep. Harley Rouda of the 48th Congressional District had 44 percent, but was again outpolled by Republicans.

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Only Rep. Mike Levin of the 49th Congressional District had an outright majority, 53 percent to 47 percent. Meanwhile, GOP Assemblywoman Young Kim led Democrat Rep. Gil Cisneros of the 39th district, 51 percent to 48 percent. That race is a rematch of the 2018 contest.

Outside of Orange County, there was more bad news for Democrats. The worst of it was in the state’s Central Valley, where Rep. TJ Cox, who won by less than 1,000 votes in 2018 over former Rep. David Valadao, lost a jungle primary rematch by a 53 percent-to-36 percent margin.

Cox said that “we’re still in this fight as underdogs” and “this race will be decided in November.”

The general line from the Democrats seemed to be that voters in primaries tended to be older, whiter and more conservative, the kind of folks that might go for Republicans.

However, this is offset by the fact that the state was the biggest prize in the Super Tuesday Democratic presidential contests — a state won by socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Not only were the Republicans able to turn out more voters in some parts of a state where there the big game in town was the Democratic presidential primary, they were able to get more voters in six of the seven flipped districts when the guy who took the state was Comrade Bernie. In other words, this sounds a lot more like buyer’s remorse than anything else.

Considering you have Kim and Valadao winning the races they lost in 2018 and the consolidation of the GOP vote in November, things are looking up in California.

And that wasn’t the only bad news for the Democrats: The Chronicle reported “GOP primary strength could come back to bite the Democrats in a May 12 runoff election to decide who will serve the remaining term of former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill of Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County), who resigned in November after admitting to a sexual relationship with a campaign aide.

“Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith finished first in the primary contest for the November election with 30% of the vote and was followed by Republican businessman Mike Garcia with 26%. Smith did even better in the special election, finishing ahead of Garcia, 34% to 27%,” the outlet said.

“Since Smith didn’t receive a majority, however, the pair will meet in the May runoff, which will be the only contest on the ballot. Republicans tend to be more likely to vote in such low-turnout elections, meaning Garcia could have the inside track on filling out the remaining months of Hill’s term.”

“The Young Turks” commentator Cenk Uygur, who was competing for the seat, finished fourth in the field, securing 6 percent of the vote, according to The New York Times.

Also, this happened on election night:

That’ll never get old.

All fun aside, this could be a real problem for Democrats come November.

“California is a blue state, but parts of it are purple,” Sonoma State University political science professor David McCuan told the Chronicle. “It will be a difficult road for the Democrats to run the table again this year.”

“In November, a good night for Democrats may be winning four of those seats,” he added.

Remember, those California seats, along with suburban seats elsewhere in the country, are necessary if the Democrats are going to keep the House.

From the looks of Tuesday’s primary results, at least one part of that strategy isn’t looking so hot.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture