After the Democratic Party seized control of the House of Representatives in November, the historically Republican stronghold of Orange County, Calif. became a central focus of the national media.
With four Republican districts flipping to Democratic control, Republicans are now mounting multiple challenges for 2020 to try to reverse what happened in 2018.
The 45th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Irvine, Tustin, Orange, Mission Viejo and parts of Anaheim, has a 3-point Republican registration lead, which led many to wonder where former Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters went wrong last fall. After the final results came in, Democrat Katie Porter bested Walters by 4 percentage points.
As of June 2019, a number of Republican challengers have announced they are running against Porter for Congress in 2020, including Orange County Deputy District Attorney Ray Gennawey.
Gennawey, who has served trial attorney since 2014 for the Orange County District Attorney’s office is currently a member of the gang unit. He is a native of the district and received his law degree from Chapman University. He served as a legislative aide in the House of Representative for four years under Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher and John Kline.
When asked why Katie Porter may have been able to flip the historically Republican seat, Gennawey attributed it to a number of factors.
“I think a lot of the Republicans voters felt like they were being ignored. For too long Republican candidates have avoided town halls and avoided the debate stage. My campaign, we are aiming straight for that debate stage. I’ve sparred with some of the finest defense attorneys in the state. I can’t wait to debate Katie Porter,” said Gennawey.
“I think we need a candidate with a real message this time. The message I’m trying to convey to the voters is that we are trying to make our community more affordable and less dangerous.”
Gennawey told the Epoch Times that a major factor concerning constituents in his district was the removal of state and local tax (SALT) deductions.
“Another reason why I think the voters chose Katie Porter is because of the state and local income tax. I’m going to do my best to try to provide relief to our citizens by at least raising the cap,” he said.
Gennawey emphasized that his campaign would be active in community outreach, unlike past Republicans.
“I think it was largely a protest vote in favor of Katie Porter and we’re going to make darn sure that doesn’t happen again. That’s why I’m taking my campaign to places where Republicans don’t traditionally campaign. I’m going into apartment complexes, campuses, I’m having meet and greets at a lot of businesses that are frequented by millennial voters to show them that we do have a conservative voice in the community.”
Gennawey was asked what qualified him to face Porter in the general election amongst a crowded field of six Republicans.
“I’m not a politician. I’m a prosecutor. I go to the mat for the people of Orange County in court, and get justice,” he said.
“I’ll do the same in Congress. I’m facing the problems of our community head on every day in our courthouse. The [criminals] that I deal with are making this community more dangerous. My campaign is also about bringing up the next generation of Republican leadership and so many people are ready for a new face in our party. They are ready for fresh, new ideas.”
Katie Porter, seen as one of the most vulnerable Democrats seeking reelection in 2020, has managed to raise over $1 million for her reelection campaign in the second quarter of 2019. When confronted on this issue, Gennawey said he believed that her fundraising would only be a problem for a Republican that doesn’t have a message.
“If you’ve got a message, you can get over the amount of money she’s raised. We can get past that, but we need a candidate with a message, and I’m saying let’s get back to basics: Protect our people and balance the budget.”
Gennawey expressed his belief that Porter’s actions since she has taken office have weakened her position.
“Katie Porter is vulnerable in this race because she campaigned and won as a moderate, but since going to congress has staked her flag in the far-left ground. She’s a member of the Progressive Caucus, she’s aligned herself with groups that are trying to abolish ICE, and she wants to spend the rest of her time in congress impeaching the President.”
When Gennawey was asked about the biggest issues facing the community, he said homelessness, mental health, and drug addiction.
“I see this in court every day,” he said. “More people are addicted to the drugs that are coming across our southern border: methamphetamine and heroin. That exacerbates the problems of mental health and homelessness. It’s no coincidence that once Prop 47 passed that reduced all those drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, the homelessness, the mental health problems and the drug addiction seem like its skyrocketing.”
Gennawey suggested implementing a federal database where local law enforcement could input information about drug seizures and help “connect the dots through the supply chain back to the source.”
He also stressed his main purpose for running for the 45th district.
“What I’m trying to do is unite the community and fight for the free expression of every viewpoint, for the progress of every race, the prosperity of every religion, the sanctity of every life. We need our government to get back to basics, which is protecting the people and balancing the budget.”
Gennawey will be facing a number of other Republican primary opponents, including Yorba Linda City Council Member Peggy Huang, Mission Viejo Mayor Greg Raths, Mayor Don Sedgwick, Orange County Department of Education Trustee Lisa Sparks, and businessman Brenton Woolworth, who all intend to take on Katie Porter in the 2020 race. California’s 2020 primary election will be on March 3, 2020 for all presidential and congressional races.