Democrats gain veto-proof majority in California Legislature

Melissa Hurtado, campaigning here in Porterville, upset Andy Vidak to help give Democrats veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature. (Chieko Hara/The Porterville Recorder via AP, File)

Orange County, one of the last bastions of Republicanism in California, has gone completely blue.

This is no small thing.

Orange County is where the conservative movement, driven in the 1960s by the John Birch Society, first planted its flag. It is Richard Nixon's place of birth and the refuge he sought to write his memoirs following his resignation. It is the home of Bob Dornan, the firebrand congressman dubbed "B-1 Bob" who made a presidential run in 1992 primarily to harangue Bill Clinton.

Now, at least for the time being, all seven congressional seats that reside in Orange County, in part or in whole, belong to Democrats.

That turnaround leaves Kern County as the only remaining island of red among counties that actually have people in them. That "deepest red" title, though, is one Kern County Republicans ought not take for granted.

Congressman Kevin McCarthy, who will be transitioning from majority leader to minority leader, still reigns supreme in his own 23rd District, even if his 14-member California congressional delegation was pounded: Democrats won six of the seven Republican-held seats they had targeted in this state. 

Two of his closest allies in the state legislature, Assemblyman Vince Fong, a former top aide of McCarthy's, and state Sen.-elect Shannon Grove, won handily.

But Kern County and the southern San Joaquin Valley did not escape the blue wave that gave Democrats the House majority and restored California's Democratic bicameral supermajority.

In fact, some might regard the November midterms as a pretty good drenching, the aforementioned three races notwithstanding.

That seventh targeted Republican seat in the House — the one that seemed to have escaped a Democratic flip — is that of Hanford's David Valadao. His lead over Democrat TJ Cox of Fresno looked marginally secure the morning after Election Day, but on Tuesday it was a scant 968 votes out of more than 100,000 cast. Kern County still has 11,465 votes to process and count — not all, of course, will be for Valadao's 21st Congressional District — but Fresno County has about 30,000 remaining; Tulare County has almost 8,000, and Kings County has 1,750, and all are at least partially the 21st's.

It was a good day for Valley Democrats elsewhere, and especially for Latinos who seem to have benefited, in the final analysis, from an increase in Latino voter turnout. None benefited more than Sanger City Councilwoman Melissa Hurtado, who surprised many by ousting 14th District Sen. Andy Vidak, a Republican, by almost 10 percentage points and 12,000 votes. Her lead has only grown in the past week.

Same for Democrat Rudy Salas of Bakersfield, whose exhibition-game victory over Republican Justin Mendes of Hanford in the June primary came down to 252 votes. This one is a different story: Salas, the incumbent, leads by 7,700 votes and almost 12 percentage points.

The one that many in Kern County were watching bucked the wave, at least by one measure. Republican David Couch appears to have kept his 4th District seat on the Kern County Board of Supervisors — a district whose boundaries were redrawn specifically to encourage Latino representation. Although that three-way race has drawn closer in the past week, Couch still has a 7 percentage point lead over Democrat Grace Vallejo of Delano — likely an insurmountable lead of 1,586 votes.

Vallejo supporters say a second Latino name on the ballot, that of Jose Gonzalez, who captured 18 percent, cost her the victory; Couch supporters say she can't honestly claim she would have inherited all of Gonzalez's support, and in fact, Couch would have needed only a third of Gonzalez's 18 percent to win. It's moot now; Couch must defend his seat again in two years.

Voter turnout was great, for a midterm election, throughout the Valley. Kern County's was 52.6 percent; Tulare's was 56 percent; Kings' was 55 percent; and Fresno's was 49.9 percent. Midterm turnouts are typically closer to 30 percent.

The fact that turnout was strong and Democrats won more than they lost reinforces what we've long understood to be the case: Republicans vote and Democrats think about voting. This year they thought about it all the way to their polling stations.

We saw the effect in Orange County and we saw the effect throughout the Valley.

The exception, as usual, was McCarthy. While his margin decreased slightly, he still won handily against Democrat Tatiana Matta — a 64.4 percent near landslide. But, while dominating, that outcome represents his closest race ever. 

Rep. Jeff Denham of Modesto, a reasonably well entrenched Republican, was beaten by Democrat Josh Harder. If Republicans in California don’t re-evaluate strategy, Denham told McClatchy News Service on Monday, even the reddest districts in California could be at risk in future elections.

He's talking about you, Kern County.

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, rprice@bakersfield.com or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

(9) comments

Stating the obvious

Literally EVERYTHING the blue wave touches turns to shite.

REMUDA

Tough call here . . . ? Is Bob a "color me 'purple' . . .?

CTurk3

Does anyone wonder why California has approximately 12% of the United States population while it has approximately 34% of the United States welfare recipients ? Maybe it is because of the "blue wave" that has been slowly drowning California for the past 20 or so years. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is most likely dead in California and Kern County will soon follow suit. With the number of illegal invaders and individuals wanting "something for nothing" continuing to move into the area the Conservative vote will no longer matter. Soon it will no longer be "Welcome to California", it will become "Welcome to the People's Republic of California",

JWS

This is a silly wrong headed remark. CA is , in fact, wildly successful on so many fronts, thanks in large part to moderate and liberal leadership. Conservatives ruin pretty much all places they touch. FACT: 97 of the nation's 100 poorest counties in red states. CA has problems but we are the 5th largest economy onthe planet. We LEAD the planet in innovation tech and entertainment. We FEED the nation - Moderate GOPs governers and Democrats have done an AMAZING JOB... one we should be proud of. The Far right is wrong and out of step and needs to leave. I've glad moderates like Arnold and Brown have guided us smartly. We need to build housing swiftly but there is so much good in our fair state... Stop bashing it... or leave. West Virginia is conservative So is Mississippi... move there.. Lots of meth addled states are conservative. They will welcome you.

CTurk3

You are a little too late with your advice about moving, my wife and I left in October along with our taxes and other financial considerations. I like to read the Californian to see just how delusional some Liberals are, and you are right up there. Keep paying those taxes, supporting the illegals and have a good life, I know I will.

ReefRanger

If you define "wildly successful on so many fronts" as meaning taking away the Constitutional rights of it's natural-born citizens bit by bit, allowing illegals sanctuary Thank you, pothead Brown!), giving illegals everything for free, constantly raising taxes and then diverting those taxes to pay for things other than want they were earmarked for, WITHOUT the vote of the people, out of control spending, allowing criminals to run the Senate, and driving the sane people and what's left of the middle class out of the state, then yeah, you liberals have done a stellar job! Keep it up! But don't come crying in 5-10 years when you get exactly what you ask for.

ReefRanger

Or, Bienvenidos Al Mexico Norte....

Sheebe

Didn't mention massive voter fraud. The fact that illegals and prisoners got to vote. The dead too more than likely. Massive voter fraud.

GaryJohns

Thank you, señor Price....

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