“Conservative” Orange County, CA Turning Democratic
Years of changing demographics, changes in the Republican Party, and local Democratic efforts have almost moved Orange County, the former home of Richard Nixon and ultra-ring-winged politics, fully into the Democratic column. In 1972 when President Nixon won re-election in a landslide, Orange County Republicans enjoyed a 41.4% registration advantage over their Democratic counterparts. Today that advantage has dwindled to 6.5%. The County’s largest cities, Anaheim (home to Disneyland), Santa Ana (the County seat), and Irvine (home to the University of California at Irvine) are now Democratic cities; and, thirty-one of the County’s thirty-four cities are trending Democrat.
Dan Jacobson, Chair of the well-heeled Democratic Foundation of Orange County credits demographics and what he calls recent Republican “stupidity.” “Two huge waves hit Orange County’s beaches. One was a tremendous demographic change and the other was the stupidity of many of the recent Republican leaders. The Democratic Party, the Democratic Foundation, and Labor caught those waves and dramatically changed the County’s politics.” Henry Vandermeir, who Chairs the local Democratic Party had a similar comment, “Working together, the Foundation and the Party are strategically taking advantage of the changing demographics and the fact that the Republican presidential candidates have insulted just about every segment of our county’s population.” Irvine, home of world-renowned UCI, is the latest city to flip to the Democrats. Larry Agran, retired Democratic Mayor of Irvine, said, “Irvine has always had Democratic ideals. The registration numbers are now revealing the growing strength and popularity of those ideals.”
In the past 40 years Orange County’s Asian population has grown dramatically. Now the County boasts the largest ethnic Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. This group once reliably voted Republican, but that is no longer the case. In 2012 the County’s four most Asian cities voted for President Obama; and the City of Garden Grove, which is in the heart of “Little Saigon”, is headed by a young, progressive Democratic Mayor.”
Orange County has a huge population, estimated by the Census Bureau in 2015 to be almost 3.2 million. The county is California’s 3rd largest county, the U.S.’s 6th largest county, and if it were a state it would be more populous than 21 other states. It is the last remaining California coastal county with a Republican edge, and that edge is quickly disappearing.