In 1988, President Ronald Reagan uttered the famous words, “Orange County is where the good Republicans go before they die,” lauding Orange County, California as a traditional Republican stronghold and the birthplace of his political campaign. Today, three decades later, all seven congressional seats are occupied by Democrats, and Reagan is surely rolling in his grave.
Pundits blame changing demographics in the area for the historic upheaval of the November 2018 elections, citing a rise in the influx of immigrants and college graduates. Between 1980 to 2000 for instance, Orange County’s population of immigrants grew five times as fast as the general population, leading some to conclude that the GOP’s day is finished.
However, some 2020 Orange County GOP candidates believe their message of small government, a regulatory middle ground, and individual liberty will resonate across racial and economic demographics, and are even now preparing a conservative, grassroots insurgency in the aftermath of 2018’s “Blue Wave.”
California’s 49th congressional district is a microcosm of Orange County’s grander political struggle. In November’s election, Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) handily won the district’s heavily contested congressional seat amidst Orange County’s larger electoral battleground, which boasted over $10 million in contributions from outside groups.
Rep. Levin, an environmental attorney and the former director of the county’s Democratic Party, ran on a platform of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, an assault weapons ban, support for Planned Parenthood, passing the College for All Act, and Medicare for All, among other progressive priorities.
Candidates on the other side of the aisle present a radically different philosophy centered on a limited government.
Mayor Brian Maryott of San Juan Capistrano, a former Certified Financial Planner and Rep. Levin’s conservative challenger in the 2020 election, contends that “big government,” progressive policies will propel Californians in the wrong direction, costing many their livelihoods and financial futures in the process.
“Lay some broad rules of the road and for the most part, get the hell out of the way,” Maryott stated regarding the government’s role in an interview with The Schpiel. “You know, in California, we’re not getting out of the way. The one-dimensional, one-party rule government here is increasing their iron grip on business incrementally, almost daily, with foolish legislative proposals that frankly scare business owners and boards of directors.”
“We struggle with the mass exodus of jobs and companies and businesses every year for states that are more business-friendly and more willing to work enthusiastically with businesses and employers. So I think my experience is particularly appropriate at this time in our state’s history and our country’s history, where we’re being pulled by the left on an eventual path towards true socialism, versus tapping into the individual spirit and the desire for people to map out their own financial and professional journeys,” Maryott continued.
Climate change is another issue that will by all accounts prove extremely divisive ahead of 2020 elections.
Rep. Levin emphatically endorsed the Green New Deal in February, a policy championed by leftist scion Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that garnered zero votes in the Senate, sating, “Climate change is the defining issue of our generation, and we must act now to address this crisis before it is too late.”
Furthermore, Rep. Levin introduced the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2019 on May 15, requiring 50% of new vehicle sales to be zero-emission vehicles by 2030, with an total emissions ban by 2040, effectively banning vehicles powered by fossil fuels.
“We can combat climate change aggressively, improve public health, and lead the world in manufacturing innovative technology by embracing zero-emissions vehicles at the same time. I am proud to lead ambitious legislation that will accomplish all of those critical goals,” Rep. Levin stated.
Maryott, on the other hand, dubbed the Green New Deal a “national economic suicide pact,” stressing the need for a regulatory middle ground balanced between economic and environmental interests.
“We all want clean air and clean water and beaches and bays. We all want the same for our kids and their kids and generations to come. We are the stewards of this great earth, and we have an obligation, but we have to be practical and reasonable,” Maryott stated. “We have to acknowledge that fossil fuels continue, at this moment, to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and we can’t escape that. People have to heat their homes and they have to get to work.”
One thing is for certain ahead of the 2020 general election for California’s 49th Congressional District, Republicans may be down in Orange County and the state as a whole, but they are laying the groundwork for an aggressive challenge in November.
“In the incumbent’s seat you have a hard-left progressive democrat, who has voted with democrat leadership like Maxine Waters and AOC,” Maryott declared, concluding, “That will be juxtaposed with someone who’s had a very successful business career.”
The Schpiel reached out to Rep. Mike Levin’s campaign for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.