Battleground OC: Get Ready for the GOP Primary Circus to Come to Town

Now that it’s almost certain California will be crucial in determining whether Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump wins enough delegates to claim the nomination before the party’s July convention, its time to start focusing on how things will work and the role Orange County will play.

First, the basics: California is the nation’s largest delegate prize, with 172 at stake when voters go to the polls on June 7. Four other states (New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana and South Dakota) are also holding primaries or caucuses that day, so it is unlikely Trump will have the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the nomination coming into that final super Tuesday.

And if he ends the day below the magic number, it’d mark the first time the leading Republican candidate entered the convention without enough delegates to secure the nomination since 1976, and it could mean the first truly contested GOP convention since 1952.

So the process by which California Republicans award delegates, and who those people are, will likely go from an arcane exercise that is of interest to only the most hopeless political junkies, to front-page news.

How Delegate Selection Works

For both parties, the primary election process hinges on California’s 53 congressional districts, although they use different systems for selecting delegates.

Here are key things to consider on the Republican side:

  • The state party runs a closed primary, which is important because Democrats and decline-to-state voters make up two-thirds of the California electorate. This could be both good and bad for Trump. Good because the anti-Trump forces won’t be able to recruit independents and Democrats to cross over and vote against him. Bad because millions of voters who might be inclined to jump on the Trump bandwagon won’t be able to.
  • Of the 172 delegates, 10 are awarded to the candidate who wins the popular vote and three include high-ranking party officials. The other 159 are awarded to the top vote getter in each congressional district.
  • Each congressional district awards three delegates; no matter how many Republicans live there. For example, only 27,000 Republicans live in California’s 13th Congressional District in Alameda County. But whoever wins there gets three delegates just like the winner in Republican Dana Rohrabacher’s 48th Congressional District, which spans the Orange County coast and is home to 164,919 Republicans. This means candidates generally will have to campaign statewide and not be able to just focus on stronger Republican areas. That being said, more than half of the congressional districts are south of the Tehachapi mountains, so expect a lot of campaigning in SoCal.
  • The delegates must be Republicans who live in the congressional district they will represent, and are chosen by the candidates, rather than by party leaders as they are in some other states. Also, under state law, the congressional district delegates must support the winner at least through the second convention ballot, with a few exceptions. This means California Republican delegates will both by law, and likely by choice, be more loyal to their candidate in a contested convention than perhaps delegates from some other states. This helps Trump given that the only realistic paths to the nomination for Ted Cruz and John Kasich rely on delegates changing their votes during the convention.

As things stand now, it is likely Hillary Clinton will have the nomination wrapped up by the time Californians vote on June 7. But being that this is 2016, the year conventional wisdom has been tossed out the window, we’ll also go over the important rules for the Dems, just in case.

Here they are:

  • California Democrats will send 546 delegates to their convention in Philadelphia the week of July 25. The total includes 476 “pledged” delegates and 70 delegates who don’t promise to vote for a specific candidate. These unpledged delegates are Gov. Jerry Brown, members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and members of the Democratic National Committee.
  • Like Republicans, Democrats rely on winners of congressional districts to select delegates who promise to vote for the candidate who won in their district. But unlike Republicans, they aren’t legally bound to do so, according to a party spokesman. The Democratic primary is open to all voters, but only Democrats may be convention delegates.
  • Rather than have a set number of delegates for each congressional district, Democrats use a formula based on population and presidential voting from the 2008 and 2012 elections that allocates four to eight delegates per district. On top of the congressional district delegates, there are 106 at large delegates, selected from a statewide pool. At large candidates also must pledge to support a specific candidate.
  • Then there are slots for 53 Democratic party leaders and elected officials who must be the mayor of a major city, a statewide elected official, state legislator, including legislative leaders and other elected officials on the state, county and local level.
  • The 476 pledged delegates will be evenly divided between women and men and “the California Democratic Party’s delegate selection plan includes affirmative action goals to increase the diversity of the delegation by race, age, Native American status, and sexuality,” according to a party summary of its selection process.

Orange County’s Role

Because Orange County makes up all or part of seven congressional districts, county residents, if selected, could comprise as many as 21 of the 159 “pledged” Republican delegates.

That’s two more districts than San Diego County even though both counties have roughly the same population of three million. Los Angeles County, more than three times the size of Orange County, is the state’s biggest, accounting for all or parts of 18 Congressional districts.

“The special role that Orange County and Los Angeles County will have is that there are a lot of (congressional) districts,” said Harmeet Dhillon, Republican party vice chair.

However, its also safe to say the OC, long a center of Republican strength, will play a prominent role in the GOP campaigns because of fundraising.

For example, the Ted Cruz campaign will host a $1,000 per person fundraising luncheon at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach on Thursday, with “special guests” former candidates Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina. Hosts are Rohrabacher and his wife Rhonda.

The Cruz website lists the leaders of his California campaign, including his state co-chairman, Orange County resident Michael Schroeder, a former state GOP chairman as well as Rohrabacher and Assemblyman Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach).

You can contact Tracy Wood at and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.

  • Chris Houston ✓ᴺᵃᵗᶦᵒᶰᵃˡᶦˢᵗ

    Trump wins all of SF bay area, all of Silicon Valley, most of LA, all of Nor Cal, Sierras.
    Trump will take by my estimation 139 delegates in CA, over the top in the primary.

  • Jacki Livingston

    Orange County GOP is run largely by a shyster lawyer named Theodora, who was donating huge amounts to Janet Nguyen and her ilk, while representing the corrupt, criminal and abusive chain of nursing homes at the center of my case. They are all truly corrupted and evil. Trump and Cruz are both the same. They hate minorities, women, educated people and anyone who refuses to buy into their sicko policies. The OC is no different from the backwater, ignorant, knuckle dragging, mouth breathing redneck scum I grew up with. They are just better dressed.

  • LFOldTimer

    It’s strange that the media is so silent about Hillary’s problems. Now I understand that the FBI wants to interview her about servergate. I wonder if she’ll decline and take the fifth? If so, anyone who endorses her is voting to elect a person who is circumventing justice through legal games to the very highest office in the land. Is that what this nation is supposed to represent?

    • Debby Bodkin

      I am not so sure the media is silent about Hillary’s issues–do you ever watch Fox News? The network had Hillary indicted months ago and believe any day now, she will be taken away for good.

      • Jacki Livingston

        You can’t really call Fox News media. They are to real journalism what The Enquirer is to the press.

  • Ltpar

    Looks like establishment RINO’s in Orange Country are gathering around Ted Cruz as their outside hope of upsetting Donald Trump. With them taking this position, I think I will go with the Donald Trump forces. Down with the establishment and up with Take Back America.

    • Debby Bodkin

      Texas Senator Ted Cruz stated his support of the “assault” charges against Donald Trump’s campaign manager, using the incident for political advantage–which is a guaranteed exercise of free speech and opinion in the United States. And, since Senator Cruz will be visiting the OC on March 31, 2016 for a $1000 a seat fundraiser at the Pacific Club in Irvine, would someone from the OC Republican GOP ask him one question for the non-politically connected citizens and report back to the

      “If you are elected President of the United States of America, would you support and approve non-criminal charges against politically-connected and wealthy donor/Republicans, before the civil rights and the guaranteed right to the fair administration of justice of United States citizens?”

      And, if Senator Cruz has not followed OC news, please provide him with the information about Orange County DA Investigator Dillon Alley who was involved in a physical assault against defense attorney James Crawford; however, Republican District Attorney Anthony Rackauckas, Republican OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, and leaders of the OC GOP have remained SILENT, without criminal charges against one of their own Republican insiders. Maybe someone can show Senator Cruz the picture of James Crawford’s face and the video from the OC courthouse that shows approximately 10 OC Sheriffs standing around picking their noses, while watching the assault.

      • Ltpar

        Since neither of us was present at the scene of the alleged assault, we only know what we read in the media and of course the self serving version of Defense Attorney James Crawford. I would suggest Ms. Bodkin that you are not only jumping the gun on what happened but adding your preconceived bias to the scenario as well. How about we wait until the investigation is complete, the ten nose picking deputies interviewed and the physical evidence analyzed. Then, if Investigator Alley is found to have engaged in anything but self defense, let the chips fall where they may? Last time I looked, a person was innocent until proven guilty, excepting law enforcement people in the eyes of liberals.

        • LFOldTimer

          But human beings have common sense even if we weren’t at the scene of the incident. Rarely does someone sustain such serious injuries after being beaten to such an extent without someone getting arrested and going to jail. And had Attorney Crawford taken the first punch it wouldn’ve been a law enforcement official’s duty to place the assailant under arrest for assault on a police officer. The fact that Attorney Crawford was not arrested casts great suspicion on whether the DA’s claim of ‘self defense’ on part of the DA Investigator is wholly credible . I’ve never heard of a cop failing to make an arrest after he or she was assaulted by an assailant who initiated the fight. Cops are trained to do exactly the opposite. So regardless of whether I was at the scene or not that does not preclude me from forming an opinion based on what we do know. Some of the stuff I’ve read so far simply makes no sense. Sure, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But the court of public opinion has a place in our society too. And we’re supposed to live under assumptions of ‘equality under the law’ and a purported ‘higher standard’ for those who enforce the law are supposed to follow. But after we observe those assumptions being disproven time and time again it makes us ask: “What the heck happened to our Country?”

        • Debby Bodkin

          Where is the video from the courthouse? Two different videos but yet, no film of the actual incident. Smells big time…. and in my opinion, fits into the RICO patterns that continue in Orange County courts. No statement from OC Board of Supervisors, no statement/action from the two largest law enforcement agencies, OC District Attorney and OC Sheriff. This is not the first time “video” has disappeared and/or “evidence” was misplaced or withheld. The public is disgusted with the acts of elected government officials in the OC and hopefully, this incident will finally lead to the appropriate criminal charges.

          • Ltpar

            Duh, perhaps none of those your referenced are jumping the gun like you are and are waiting for the investigation to be done. Youclearly have a bone to pick with the Orange County Justice System which makes me wonder if you might have had an up close and personal experience? Some sour grapes perhaps?

      • Chris Houston ✓ᴺᵃᵗᶦᵒᶰᵃˡᶦˢᵗ

        Fields lied, so obvious day one.
        Charges dropped.
        Ted is a world class liar.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Trump doesn’t want take back America. He wants go back, America. He is selling an illusion of white bread Ozzie and Harriett “good old days” that were no good for anyone but white men. Pretty much everyone else was being screwed.

      • Ltpar

        I am partial Mexican American from a small town in Texas and the Ozzie & Harriet days were pretty good to me and my family. That was primarily because we didn’t sit around waiting for government handouts like food stamps, Obamacare and free education. I went to the military, learned discipline, hard work and love for my country. I worked two part time jobs and paid for my own college without running up any debt. After marriage, my wife and I both worked and we lived within our means, saved first, spent second and invested wisely. Today we are both retired and very comfortable. If poor white trash from Texas like me can be successful, then anyone can be successful. Look around and see who is screwed by you liberals taking us down a one way street to Socialism. It isn’t people such as yourself or your friends on Wall Street. It is minorities and other poor people who keep dancing along behind the Pied Piper of Chicago waiting patiently for that Hope & Change. As for me and mine, while Donald Trump is rough around the edges, often rude, crude and lewd he has something this country desperately needs? That is, a man size pair of male body parts. I will be joining Donald Trump in the campaign to Take Back America. Semper Fidelis.

        • Jacki Livingston

          I can never understand why men think man parts equate strength and power. You hit them with a toddler’s kick and he”s on the floor. You want something tough, strong and durable? Try lady parts. Those birth children. If men had to do that, the species would have died out a loooooooong time ago. Further, pal, you know NOTHING about me. While you and your OCGOP buds were sipping taxpayer paid Starbucks, I was on the front lines, working daily against the end result of failed Bush policies. I was fighting for folks in nursing homes that your cronies were raping, beating, robbing and killing. I have been working since I was thirteen, so wipe that little smug smirk off your face. I will never be able to work, again, thanks to your corrupt and evil GOP pals. And, I tell you what, if any man said the people of my heritage were all rapists and murderers, he would not have my vote. He might have over inflated male parts, but Trump has no clue how to run a country. The destruction of the GOP will be his legacy.

  • LFOldTimer

    With the latest 5x mistress scandal plaguing the purported Christian evangelical family-values Ted Cruz California should be a cakewalk for Donald Trump. And voters generally don’t like Cruz SuperPacs using semi-naked of wives photos of opposing candidates in their campaign ads. Americans won’t tolerate that level of sleaze. I know several Independents who intend to temporarily reregister as Republicans prior to the June GOP primary just so they can vote for Trump. Right now Trump leads in the California primary by a comfortable margin in a USC – LA Times poll that had an oversampling of Latino voters. And the polls only target GOP voters – not the Independents (who largely favor Trump) who will reregister as Republicans to vote in the June GOP primary. IMO Trump will take California by an easy 10 percentage points.

    • Debby Bodkin

      As Orange County, California history patterns reveal, any type of alleged mistress scandal by a member/elected official associated with OC Republic GOP network will not diminish political support for anyone (i.e., former OC Sheriff Mike Carona, Santa Ana Councilman Carlos Bustamante).

      Would someone from the OC Republican GOP ask Senator Cruz a question for the non-politically connected citizens and report back to the

      “If you are elected President of the United States of America, would you enable members of the Republican GOP to INTERRUPT and/or BUTT-IN with questions from the press and/or concerned citizens?”

      If Senator Cruz needs an explanation to the question posed, please have him view former candidate for President, Carly Fiorina’s disgraceful and arrogant actions at IMO, Senator Cruz is a Harvard trained lawyer and does not need Carly Fiorina to defend anything!

    • Ltpar

      Hey old timer, I hate to be the bearer of ill tidings, but Jesus Christ is not on the ballot for President. If you eliminated all the politicians, both Republicans & Democrats who have had affairs or engaged in other moral violations, there wouldn’t be anyone on the ticket. Sorry to say, but we have created this morally bankrupt country ourselves by inattention, non-involvement and simply being asleep at the wheel. “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.”

      • LFOldTimer

        Somebody who purports to be a super-Christian evangelist and spouts family values while engaging in extramartial affairs is simply not suitable for the Office of the President of the US. Sorry. He or she can’t be trusted. Jeckyl and Hyde comes to mind. We, as a Nation, should not have to settle for such a blatant hypocrite to occupy the highest office in the land. We have 330M people in America. We don’t need a fake super-Christian floozy philanderer in the White House. We deserve better.

  • Paul Lucas

    The GOP is dead. This will be the last year that the GOP has any semblance of a political party. They are going the way of the whigs.

    • Ltpar

      Don’t write off conservatives until the fat lady sings. Look for an all time high number of conservative voters going to the polls to stop Hillary “the criminal” Clinton and prevent the balance of the Supreme Court from being altered. Take Back America…….

      • Jacki Livingston

        We did take it back…from ignorance, evil, racism and hate mongering sexism of the right.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Let’s hope so.

  • kburgoyne

    Thanks, Tracy.

    Now… WHAT THE HECK is with there being state laws which apply to a specific party? If you can have state laws which apply to a specific political party, then why don’t the Democrats controlling the legislature just pass a law saying only elected Democrats can legally choose the Republican candidate? (Oh whoops, I think I just gave the Republican legislature in Texas an idea.)

    Laws applicable to a specific party are completely and totally wrong. Since the parties are nothing more than a “club” with membership, party-specific rules should be limited to being only that — party RULES. One could imagine a state law saying delegates MUST adhere to party rules in order to put some legal teeth behind the rules, but such a law would be okay(ish) because it would be the same enforcement for all parties.

    It’s bad enough in our country that we even have the parties with a strangehold over the political process. The Constitution makes no recognition of the concept of political parties. Therefore political parties fall generically under the First Amendment freedom of assembly — something which is generic and grants no unique rights or recognition of political parties beyond any other form of assembly (such as the gold fish fanatics club).