As the results of the Orange County elections came in, Democrats were counting their blessings. Orange County, once covered by citrus plantations and ranches, has become a suburban paradise of residential housing and masterfully planned communities full of white people fleeing Los Angeles, residents of the Midwest seeking heat, and workers linked to the aerospace and defense industries. The changing voter patterns in Orange County are similar to those that have occurred in places such as Montgomery County, outside Philadelphia, and Fairfax County, in northern Virginia. Randall Avila, executive director of the Orange County Republican Party, said that many Democratic advances were taking place in stripes that were already markedly blue.
Orange County was also home to a large community of wealthy Republican businessmen, including Donald Bren of the Irvine Co. This has made Orange County a true battleground where either party can win. This week, the Orange County Registrar's Office of Voters will publish a new set of tools with information and resources for voters in Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Spanish. This comes as no surprise to Julie Vo, policy director for Orange County's Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance.
They preached a form of “cowboy capitalism”, free markets, low taxes and deregulation that made the county a must-see for Republican candidates across the country, said Fred Smoller, a political science professor at Chapman University in Orange. Since the ballots are still being counted, the Orange County Voter Registry has not yet published how many votes each state candidate received in each electoral district. For years, the Orange County vote has shied away from Republican candidates, which has emboldened moderate Democrats and opened the door to even more progressive candidates. Democrats have made progress on city councils in the last two elections, have secured coveted seats in county congressional districts and could win a majority on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
This increase has helped motivate greater political participation by Asian Americans, according to Jackie Wu, director of community outreach for Asian Americans in Action, a non-profit organization of progressive Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from Orange County. Democrats from Texas, Arizona and Nevada have already contacted their compatriots in Orange County to discuss the strategy. Rothenberg pointed to the suburbs of Atlanta, the cities of Charlotte and Greensboro in North Carolina and several areas of Texas that could be prepared for political change such as that of Orange County. Orange County is actually home to the largest Vietnamese diaspora, which is the community of Vietnamese living outside of Vietnam, Vo said.
This year's House of Representatives elections are even tighter after California's redistricting, which put four Orange County incumbents running in newly designated districts. The battle between Republicans and Democrats is heating up in Orange County as both parties fight for control over local politics. With new tools being released by the Orange County Registrar's Office of Voters to help voters from different backgrounds participate in elections more easily, it is clear that this battle is far from over. As both parties continue to fight for control over local politics in Orange County, it will be interesting to see how this battle plays out.