The crowded field of candidates running for four Orange County Congressional seats narrowed slightly Friday, as several candidates failed to file paperwork by the 5 p.m. deadline for their names to appear on the June 5 primary election ballot.
Democrats nationwide are targeting the four Orange County Republican strongholds, the 39th, 45th, 48th and 49th Congressional districts, in a campaign to secure 24 seats across the country that would give them a majority in the House of Representatives. They consider at least some of the four Orange County GOP-held seats vulnerable because for the first time in 80 years, the four districts voted for a Democrat, Hilary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats are focused on two districts where longtime incumbents, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) of the 39th district and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) of the 49th district, aren’t running for re-election. Because the incumbents aren’t running, the deadline for filing in those two districts is Wednesday, March 14.
Orange County Democratic leaders have tried in recent weeks to narrow the field of candidates in order to avoid a scenario in June where Democratic voters split their power among several candidates, allowing two Republican candidates to receive the majority of votes and move onto the November general election. California has a “top two” primary where the two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary, regardless of their political party, face off in November.
But few candidates have stepped aside. In the 39th District for example, so far 19 candidates have filed, including 10 Democrats and seven Republicans.
The state Democratic Convention last month resulted in only two endorsements out of the four Congressional Districts because delegates from the 39th and 49th districts couldn’t decide who to recommend.
And there are no endorsements from state Republicans yet because their convention isn’t until the weekend of May 4.
39th Congressional District
There could be over 19 candidates will be on the June 5 primary ballot for voters in the 39th district, including nine Democrats. After 25-year Republican Congressman Royce announced in January he wouldn’t seek re-election, six Republicans entered the race. There also is one candidate registered as having no party preference and one from the American Independent Party.
More candidates could file by the extended 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline.
The 39th district includes most of north Orange County, including parts of Buena Park, Placentia and Anaheim Hills and contains all of Yorba Linda, Brea, La Habra and Fullerton. It also includes parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Candidate filing data came from the registrars of voters those three counties but the Secretary of State will compile the official list of candidates after March 14.
Democratic candidate Andy Thorburn raised the most money last year at $2.5 million, including $2 million of his own money, but former one-term Republican Assemblywoman Young Kim gathered the most endorsements including Royce, whom Kim worked for before she was elected to the State Assembly in 2014.
Kim also is endorsed by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and 2nd District Supervisor Michelle Steel. Seven Republican Assemblymembers have endorsed her as have numerous city council members from communities in and outside the 39th district.
Republican county Supervisor Shawn Nelson, another 39th district candidate, has been endorsed by five California Republican officeholders including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, Assemblyman Phillip Chen of Diamond Bar, State Senator John Moorlach of Costa Mesa, Orange County 1st District Supervisor Andrew Do and San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman.
The Federal Elections Commission website has no campaign finance data for Nelson, Kim and the other Republicans who entered the race earlier this year. The next quarterly filing date for campaign finance is March 31.
Thorburn has garnered endorsements from some Democrats including Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles.
Like Thorburn, Democratic challenger Gil Cisneros gave himself a little over $1.3 million, and raised $1.6 million last year. But unlike other high fundraising Democratic candidates, Cisneros is endorsed by several Democratic state and federal elected officials: eight members of Congress, including Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Linda Sanchez of Whittier; and three Assembly members, including Sharon Quirk-Silva of Fullerton.
While the district spans three counties and has 361,000 registered voters, the bulk of voters are in Orange County at 223,000, according to a January voter registration report from the Secretary of State.
Republicans still hold a slight edge in the district with 35.5 percent of voters, with Democrats close behind with 34 percent. Voters with no party preference total 26 percent.
Election analysis website Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball lists the 39th as a toss up while another handicapper site, The Cook Political Report, lists the district leaning Democratic.
45th Congressional District
There are five challengers looking to unseat Rep. Mimi Walters in the southeast Orange County district, including five Democrats and one no party preference candidate. Walters raised the most money last year with $1.6 million, over half of it from a joint fundraising committee, Mimi Walters Victory Fund, which is used by other political action committees to fundraise and spend on events. Walters has been in office for three years.
So far, the closest anybody’s gotten to Walter’s war chest is Democrat Brian Forde, who raised $873,000. Around $100,000 of that was directed to his campaign through San Francisco-based Coinbase, a digital currency bank, but Forde’s web site doesn’t list any endorsements.
Katie Porter, a Democrat, is just behind Forde with $741,000 raised. She’s been able to score some high-level endorsements, including Democratic U.S. Senators Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Democrat Dave Min raised $678,000 last year. Min won the state Democratic party endorsement in late February, which means he’ll likely be able to increase his campaign fundraising ability. He’s been endorsed by Quirk-Silva and her husband, Fullerton Councilman Jesus Silva.
The 45th district is home to 410,000 registered voters. The district sits mostly on the southeast side of Orange County and includes Irvine, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Laguna Hills and portions of Laguna Woods, Villa Park, Orange, Anaheim Hills and Tustin.
Although Walters doesn’t have to worry about another Republican in the race who could split the GOP vote, she could be facing some tough competition if the no preference voters decide to vote for a Democrat.
The no preference voters make up over a quarter of registered voters in the district. Republicans still hold the majority of registered voters at 38 percent while Democrats are just above 30 percent.
But if voting trends follow 2016, Walters could easily advance to November and score a victory. She beat her opponent in 2016 by a margin of over 17 percent.
Both the Crystal Ball and the Cook Report have classified the district as leaning Republican.
48th Congressional District
Voters in the 48th district will have 16 names on their primary ballot, including incumbent Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher has been in Congress for nearly 30 years. He’s going up against five other Republicans, including former state Assembly Republican leader Scott Baugh.
Rohrabacher raised nearly $1.1 million last year, with a sizeable chunk coming from various political action committees like the California Victory Fund, a political action committee that doesn’t have any financial information on the FEC website yet.
Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Harley Rouda Jr. also raised about $1.3 million last year. He self-funded most of his war chest at nearly $750,000. ActBlue, a Democratic fundraising organization, also has been giving to Rouda’s campaign.
Rouda is endorsed by former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and state Senator Henry Stern of Canoga Park.
While Baugh didn't raise any money last year, he enters the race with $545,000 in campaign finances left over from 2016 when he was setting up a run. He just entered the race last week.
Democrat Hans Keirstead raised $872,000 last year and, like Rouda, Keirstead also is self-funded, but much less at about $210,000. He’s also received numerous contributions from ActBlue. The state Democratic Party endorsed Keirstead at its convention last month. Keirstead also has endorsements from two Congressmen and State Senator Bill Dodd of Napa.
The district spans the coastal cities of Orange County from Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel and stretches east into parts of Westminster and Garden Grove. It also includes Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Newport Beach, Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach.
Rohrabacher, who has been a member of Congress since 1989, won reelection in 2016 with a nearly 17-point margin over his opponent. But this year, the Cook Report and Crystal Ball classified the district as a toss up.
The district is home to 400,000 voters and the Republicans hold over 40 percent of the registered voters. Democrats are at just under 30 percent of voters, while the no preference voters make up just over a quarter of the district.
Like the rest of the districts, about half of voters turned out for the 2016 primaries, a presidential election year, up from about a quarter on average in primaries before that. In 2014, the turnout was just under 25 percent.
49th Congressional District
The 49th could have least 10 candidates heading into the primary election, after the district’s Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of Vista said in January he won’t seek reelection. Most of the district is in San Diego County but it also includes south Orange County.
There are four Republicans running for Issa’s seat, four Democrats, one Peace and Freedom candidate and one candidate from the K-9 party. The candidate filing data was pulled from Orange County and San Diego County registrars of voters. San Diego's list doesn't list anyone as qualified for ballot, even the candidates who've filed their nomination papers. The registrar's website calls it the "unofficial list" of candidates.
Like the 39th district, the deadline to file candidacy papers has been extended to March 14 because of Issa’s announcement. The Secretary of State will make an official candidate list after that.
Issa, whose first term was in 2001, won reelection in 2016 by less than a percentage point against Democratic challenger Doug Applegate. Applegate, a retired Marine colonel, is running again this election.
Democratic challenger Sara Jacobs raised the most money last year with $1.3 million. She self-funded over $1 million of that amount. She’s received endorsements from three members of Congress.
On Jacobs’ heels is Democrat Mike Levin, who managed to raise $1.2 million, mostly through individual contributions and money from ActBlue. He’s received endorsements from eight Congress members including Adam Schiff of Burbank, two state Senators and three Assembly members.
Democrat Paul Kerr isn’t far behind with just over $1 million in his war chest. He self-funded the bulk of that at around $700,000.
Meanwhile, Applegate is behind at $680,000. He’s been endorsed by Assemblyman Tom Daly of Anaheim and former Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.
Republican candidates don’t have any campaign finance data available yet from the FEC website.
Applegate isn’t the only former Marine in the 49th District race, which encompasses Marine Corps Camp Pendleton in north San Diego County.
GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside, also a retired Marine colonel, is running. While there’s no campaign finance data available for his campaign yet, he’s started gathering endorsements from various city council members in San Diego county.
Another GOP elected official, Board of Equalization Chairwoman Diane Harkey, entered the race after Issa’s announcement and has garnered an endorsement from 45th District Congresswoman Walters. Additionally, Orange County Supervisors Do, Michelle Steel and Lisa Bartlett are backing Harkey, as is Sheriff Hutchens.
The district touches the most southern cities in the county, including San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and San Clemente. The 49th also stretches down the west side of San Diego county, ending before La Jolla.
The 49th district is home to 380,000 registered voters in Orange and San Diego counties. Republicans still hold the majority at 37 percent, while Democrats are at 31 percent. Like the other districts, the no preference voters make up just over a quarter of registered voters.
The Cook Report and the Crystal Ball classify the district as leaning Democratic.