ORANGE COUNTY, Calif.—Orange County, California, has traditionally been a red spot on a blue state map. But it has become more purple in recent years.
In 2016, the county voted for Hillary Clinton—the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the county since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. She led by a margin of 8.6 percent.
Preliminary election results on Nov. 4 showed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had received about 54 percent of the county’s vote, and Republican President Donald Trump had received about 44 percent.
Congressional, state, and local seats have also flipped from red to blue in recent years. As of Nov. 4, many of those key flipped seats had close margins, though Democrats Katie Porter and Mike Levin had clear leads in Congressional Districts 45 and 49 respectively.
Regarding the loss of ground for Republicans in recent years, Rachel Potucek, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Orange County, told The Epoch Times: “It was a wake up call for how different Orange County has become, how different it is today compared to how it was maybe 10, 20 years ago. Values have shifted.”
She gave the example of Santa Ana, which has a Latino population of more than 75 percent and is also by far the bluest city in the county. The city has 53 percent registered Democrats and only 18 percent registered Republicans.
Latinos, along with Vietnamese, Iranians, and others, “have made their home here over the past 30, 40 years,” Potucek said. “Their kids are growing up and having a say in politics and are starting to vote. The median age of Latino America today is 19.”
There are more young people (under 30) registered to vote in Orange County this year than any other age group.
The young people of Irvine, with the student population at the University of California–Irvine, also provide a strong Democratic voter base. And Anaheim, another of the most populous cities in the county, is also blue this year, according to voter registration.
But the Republican core of the county may remain strong. Of about a dozen people The Epoch Times spoke with on the street in some of the county’s most purple, or even blue areas, ahead of election night, the majority said they would vote for Trump.
Though the populous urban centers of the county are blue, much of the rest remains red.
Countywide, 37 percent of voters registered Democratic, 34 percent Republican, and 24 percent no party preference.
Yorba Linda, dubbed “Trumpland” by the Orange County Register in 2016, is a relatively small city but one where Republicans have the greatest lead, with nearly 50 percent of registered voters compared to 25 percent Democratic.
Newport Beach is next, with 47 percent registered Republicans and 26 percent Democrats. The large swath of unincorporated land to the northeast is also strongly Republican, along with many of the smaller cities and the coastal region.
The City of Orange is one of the purplest cities in the county. Less than one percentage point separates the number of registered voters on either side.
Potucek expressed optimism about the blue wave carrying through the 2020 election and beyond. The Republican Party of Orange County couldn’t be reached for comment.
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a retired public policy professor at the University of Southern California, told The Epoch Times: “Orange County isn’t Orange County anymore. … By nature of registration and demographics, it is no longer the domain of old white males. … The old Republican dynasty is no more.”
She echoed Potucek’s assessment that the increasing Asian and Latino population will keep the county moving into the blue.
In Costa Mesa
Some parts of Costa Mesa were among the most evenly divided in 2016, particularly around Orange Coast College and South Coast Plaza. The Epoch Times spoke to voters in that area ahead of election day to see how they would vote.
Antwan, 22, who declined to give his last name, said he would vote for Trump because of the progress the president has made. “You have to see who’s actually doing work, who isn’t actually just standing there.” He said Biden “hasn’t really done anything.”
“The other countries that we are allies with, they were taking advantage of us. … No one would take advantage of us anymore,” he said. “If Biden was thinking about doing that, he would have done it when he was with [former president Barack] Obama [as his vice president].”
Antwan’s friend, Will, 26, was of a different opinion. But the two said they can respect each other despite different political views. “I’m not going to vote for Trump, but he’s still my friend,” Will said of Antwan.
“Trump brought a lot of division. And that’s the only thing I don’t like about him,” Will said. “He can be a great president, but somebody needs to filter his mouth; maybe take his Twitter away or something, I don’t know. I’m kidding.”
Will also feels Trump mishandled the COVID-19 situation. He didn’t vote in the 2016 election, but he did vote for Obama in 2012.
“I’m voting because my friends are telling me I need to vote,” he said.
Will is a veteran, and he said his benefits increased under Trump, that Trump “has done a lot for me.”
“I feel like I usually vote off emotions,” he said. “I just think that he should not be president. I think Joe Biden should be given a chance.”
Nancy Ngo, 38, said on Oct. 29 that she was undecided but would make a decision at the final moment. She voted for Clinton in 2016. “I’m like 50/50 between them,” she said of Biden and Trump.
She voted for Biden in the primaries, but she said a lot about this year—including the pandemic and the spotlight on Black Lives Matter—have made her reconsider.
“Trump already [had] his term. … We know what he [has] done,” she said. “I know this country needs someone to guide the right way. We want to be great again.”
Amy Nguyen, 43, voted for Trump in 2016 and she said she would vote for him again this election. The most important thing for her, she said, is “the future of our country.”
“I think the other side is too far to the other side and would drastically change the foundation of this country if they have the opportunity and the power to do so,” she told The Epoch Times. “It just seems that over the last couple of years, things have gone too far left. Even in the middle— there really is no middle anymore.”
Though she leans more toward the Republicans in general, she said “I’m not going to vote for a Republican if it’s not the right Republican. … I’d like to consider myself more of an independent.”
Trump wasn’t her first choice; she didn’t vote for him in the 2016 primaries. “But I still voted for him when it came down to my two options. This time, it’s a similar situation.”
“It’s not about him as an individual and his personality,” she said. “It’s about the Supreme Court, it’s about the Second Amendment, it’s about national security, it’s about the economy, it’s about my children’s future and our future.”
She said many of her friends feel the same way, but politics have been divisive with some friends and acquaintances of different opinions.
Melissa Morris, 45, told The Epoch Times, “I think there’s a lot of closet Trump fans that are gonna come out, and they are waiting until the last minute to vote.”
Morris said that she herself never talks politics with friends, though she doesn’t mind if they have different opinions to hers. She voted for Trump, as she did in 2016.
“Not that I 100 percent love the guy, but I have no faith in Biden.”
“I like that he’s a businessman, and not a politician,” Morris said. “And then this whole Biden thing that came out—I think it’s pretty weak that Biden’s not responding to it. He’s just denying it and I just don’t like that,” she said, referring to recent investigations into the business dealings in Ukraine and China of Biden’s son Hunter Biden, as well as Biden’s own connection to those dealings.
Rob Buckman told The Epoch Times he would be voting for Trump because of “what he’s pushing for: reducing taxes, building the wall, cutting illegal immigration—you name it, the whole gamut.
“You can’t blame this economy on him. The China virus took everybody by surprise, period.”
In Purple Orange
In the City of Orange, there’s only a 0.7 percent difference between the number of registered Democrats and Republicans.
The west side has slightly more registered Democrats, the east side has slightly more Republicans. The central part of the city is fairly evenly split.
The Epoch Times spoke with voters in the more purple part of the city.
James Anargirou, 27, said on Oct. 30, “I already voted for Biden.”
“I didn’t so much vote for Biden as against Trump. Biden is the status quo. Trump is terrible. He manipulates the fear and hatred in the population to incite violence and irrational behavior,” he told The Epoch Times.
Similarly, when he voted for Clinton in 2016, he felt “it was clear that one person was meh, and one person was terrible.”
“I’m massively liberal,” he said. “I believe in equal rights for all, you know, within reason. And the Republican Party by and large today seems to be very much anti that. There’s rampant voter suppression campaigns in various forms of voter intimidation, to gerrymandering, to over-policing of minorities,” he said.
Doug Barnett, 62, said he voted for Trump in 2016 and “I want Trump to come in one more time.”
“What I like about him most is that he’s got backbone and he’s not afraid to say exactly what he wants,” Barnett told The Epoch Times. He said Biden “has got no backbone,” and his running mate Kamala Harris would “dictate what he’s going to do.”
Carlos Calderon, 58, also said he voted for Trump in 2016 and would do so again this year.
“Although I think he’s crass—he’s got certain things I don’t like about him—but I think he’s trying to tend to do the right thing for the country,” Calderon told The Epoch Times.
He likes Trump’s “America first” approach, his stance on dealing with China and “trying to make it fair.”
Calderon was born in Cuba, and although his family left when he was young, he heard about how bad it was there from his parents and grandparents. “I think the Democratic Party has a lot of things that are similar ideology with Cuba and the way they want a lot of government control,” he said.
He said the government should have some control, but not too much. He also said Biden is too old. Though Biden is only a few years older than Trump, Calderon still feels with Biden pushing past 80 during the coming four-year term, “it’s maybe a little too old for somebody running the country.”
Anaheim is the second most Democratic city in the county, according to voter registration this year.
Of four people The Epoch Times spoke with leaving the Honda Center after voting on Nov. 2, two said they voted for Trump and two for Biden.
Anthony Robles, 26, voted for Trump because “he’s helped out with the economy. He’s bringing the steel industry back here.” Daniela Robles, 18, also voted for Trump, because “he’s really boosted our economy. And he’s actually a really good person … [though] the media likes to kind of paint him as a bad guy.”
Jamie Areloano, 29, voted for Biden mostly because she wants Harris to become vice president. “Just knowing all the work she has done in California is really cool,” Areloano said.
David, 34, who declined to give his last name, said “I begrudgingly voted for Biden. I’m still not too fond of how the Democratic Party has been handling and carrying themselves during the past year, during the pandemic and other aspects and political stances on where they are standing.”
But, he liked the alternatives even less.
However the presidential vote goes in Orange County, many local-level seats are also part of the blue-red tug-of-war in the county.
Potucek of the Democratic Party said, “You can look for the number of Democrats who are running for local seats. We have twice as many Democrats running for city council, school board, water board, special district, local offices compared to two years ago.”
In 2016, she said they had about 160 candidates running, and about 170 in 2018. This year, they had 221 candidates.
Regarding the multiple congressional seats the Democrats flipped by surprise in 2018 and are trying to hold onto this year, she said, “We are a nationally watched battleground for really competitive seats.”
Chris Karr contributed to this report.