Democrats Flip Control Of Local GOP Control After 50 Year Run

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Democrats have gained control of the county board in the southern California jurisdiction Orange County, nabbing a majority for the first time since the late 1970s — ending a nearly 50-year GOP hold on the board.

The county has a huge budget reaching a reported $8.8 billion, meaning that the new Democratic majority can exert significant control over county policy, with over 3 million residents across the county. “With a Democratic majority, we can help improve public health in areas that have been neglected,” Ada Briceño, who serves as county Democratic Party chair, said. “We can address the unhoused in a better, more compassionate way.” The county government has been the target of litigation over its treatment of homeless people, as recapped by the Los Angeles Times. The publication also notes the previously GOP-led board was repeatedly at odds with state authorities over restrictions implemented in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

It wasn’t a given the newly victorious Democratic majority would win. In the critical race, which was the only board contest on the ballot this fall in which a Dem was facing a Republican, Democratic incumbent Katrina Foley beat back her GOP opposition (a state Senator) by a margin of about two percent in a race with hundreds of thousands of votes cast overall, and in that district, registered Republicans even apparently slightly outnumber Dems by a margin in the low single digits. Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), who recently won re-election by a little over three percent, also represents portions of the county. Foley brought up climate change in discussing her thoughts for the path ahead in light of the Dem success. “My office began the county’s first Climate Action plan,” she said. “But now there will be strong support for moving forward in a more aggressive and comprehensive way. We’re one of the few counties of our size and of our connection to the coast that has not done enough work in this area.”

Across the county as a whole, registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans. In the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in Orange County was over 20 percentage points smaller than her margin across the state as a whole, hitting the single digits. Back in the present, Democrats also scored significant victories in the midterm elections at the level of state government, nabbing unified control of the state legislature and governorship in four additional states (although the party lost its control in Nevada).