Journalists debate whether Orange County will go red, blue or purple

Democrats hope the “Blue Wave” will flip the House of Representatives. Photo courtesy of Sheila Anne Feeney

The Democrats have the opportunity to flip the house in the upcoming congressional races on Nov. 6th and take back control in Washington D.C., making the districts in and around Orange County decisive players in filling House seats, said a panel of journalists at an election preview event on Oct. 30.

“This is one of the most consequential congressional elections any of us have ever gone through, “said Los Angeles Bureau Chief for the New York Times Adam Nagourney.

Nagourney, Voice of OC founder Norberto Santana Jr. and KPCC Senior Political Editor Mary Plummer discussed how the voting at elections are becoming less about political identity and more focused on particular, divisive policies. Along with this change in voter rationale, attention on higher-level bureaucracy is heightened, leaving decisions for local government behind.

“The congressional races have taken all the air out of the room,” Santana said.

Historically Republican districts such as Orange County are being examined due to a historical shift in which more Orange County voters identify as blue or “no party preference.”

All Republicans aren’t eager to be seen as connected to President Donald Trump. In a lot of Republican ads “Trump isn’t front and center,” said Plummer, a Chapman alumna. 

The private election preview event called “Blue Wave, Red Tide or Purple Haze?” was held at Chapman University. Though many attendees live within the 46th congressional district, it was Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of the 48th Congressional District that brought up much discussion.

Like the event name suggests, many of the questions asked by moderator Kristen Muller, Southern California Public Radio Chief Content Officer, came back to the current political climate of races and propositions.

 The panelists refrained from making predictions or speculating about outcomes. However, they did comment on past behavior and the known Democratic majority in the state of California.

“Trump has 25-35 percent of votes nationally – it’s not enough to win. Support varies district by district,” Nagourney said.

“The big game here is absolutely the congressional race,” Nagourney said. “You’re on ground zero of this fight for Congress,” Nagourney added.

Though Orange County has a history of strong Republican support, the Democrats in Orange County are growing in number and they’ve been outspending, Santana said.   

“[The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)] is playing in OC more than ever before,” Santana said.  

The DCCC, a political committee that supports Democratic House candidates, has spent thousands of dollars to support the Democrat candidates in Orange County. 

  Among the different social groups, young people and voters of color may contribute to a blue wave,  Santana said.

“In Orange County, there are young voters voting in large numbers,” Plummer said.

Young voters are likely to register as no party preference voters (NPP), Plummer and Santana noted. Their votes are expected to be critical in the outcome Tuesday.

Of the 200 people who attended, many asked questions about Latino and young voter groups that could produce massive policy changes.

One crowd member asked why it’s so important to focus on these groups.

“When we compare us as a whole to other other countries, there’s a lower voting rate. How come we don’t talk about that rather than specific groups?” asked Chapman lecturer Luis Ortiz-Franco.

Santana used this question to urge the importance of support from Latinos in the community.

“With immigration being bashed the way it is, if we saw a little more [support], policies would radically change,” Santana said.

In the 39th congressional district, moderate Republican candidate Young Kim, running against Gil Cisneros, has adopted a careful approach with immigration, according to Plummer.

In order for Republicans to win, California Republicans need to expand their appeals and acknowledge that Democrats have legitimate concerns, according to Nagourney.

“The old Republican playbook has to be changed,” Santana said.

As for propositions, only one garnered attention from the panelists.

Prop 6, which proposes a gas tax to fund road repairs, is a get-out-the vote tactic to get Republicans to the ballot box, according to Nagourney.

As of right now, this plan has not worked across the state.

“The Republican vote is failing,” Nagourney said.

Plummer noted that even in the gubernatorial race Republican John Cox, running against Gavin Newsom “hasn’t gotten the traction either,” Plummer said.

Newsom has nothing to gain by participating in another debate with Cox – he would only be giving a platform for Cox and increase liability for himself by misspeaking, according to Nagourney.

Candidates are increasingly going to the voters directly through social media, Nagourney said. 

Legacy media, “doesn’t have the power – for better or for worse – it once had for campaigns,” Nagourney said.

Candidates are restricting media coverage, Plummer said, noting that in one instance a debate was held in which audio and video recordings were banned, preventing anyone not present from seeing or hearing the candidates in action.  

Santana noted this tactic allows only one side – the politicians – to engage.

“It’s gamed outcomes that we’re seeing. That’s the scariest part,” Santana said. This idea of gaming elections…”There’s almost an intention to have a confused electorate running after shiny objects.”

Leslie Song

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