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Why These 2 Coastal California Districts Stay Reliably Red

Rohrabacher, left, and Issa, right, are the only Republicans to hold seats on California's coastline. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rohrabacher, left, and Issa, right, are the only Republicans to hold seats on California's coastline. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

At first glance, almost the entirety of California’s picturesque coastline is represented by Democrats.  

But two of the 14 districts along California’s 800 miles of Pacific Ocean real estate buck that trend. And strategists from both parties expect it to remain that way.  

The two seats are GOP Reps. Dana Rohrabacher’s 48th District and Darrell Issa’s 49th District. Both include some of the wealthiest beach communities in Orange County, which remains the bedrock of the Republican Party in the Golden State.  

“Orange County is changing dramatically, but the pocket that Rohrabacher represents, think of it as ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County,'” said Ben Tulchin, a California-based Democratic pollster. “That southern part of Orange County is still mostly white and Republican, and not part of the Los Angeles universe, and not part of San Diego.”  

With the average home price hovering around the $1 million mark in Rohrabacher’s district, the area has been largely insulated from the growing demographic trends in along the rest of the state — where Latino and Asian populations have helped turn the coastline a deeper shade of blue.  

GOP operatives said the average Republican in Rohrabacher’s district is likely more environmentally conscious and libertarian on social issues than the rest of the party in other parts of the country, and they feel Rohrabacher’s profile fits that voter.  

“There’s an independence there that’s a little bit fierce,” said Justin Wallin, a California Republican pollster. “Dana plays well into that independent spirit, a libertarian spirit that also includes a certain respect for protecting the environment.”  

Issa’s seat was similarly insulated from the large demographic shifts. But his district also includes Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base, and a large retiree community — two factors that help keep the seat more traditionally Republican.  

“There’s a heavy military presence, so that really influences the culture significantly,” Tulchin said. “It’s not the urban core. It’s a different cultural mix and I don’t see that changing quite frankly anytime soon.”  


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