The Buzz is the Register’s weekly political news column.
Turnout and enthusiasm at Orange County Democrats annual Truman Awards Dinner on Saturday dished up the latest reminder of the county’s changing political tilt and its national role in next year’s congressional elections.
Keynote speaker Keith Elllison, deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the crowd that of the 24 seats his party needs to pickup to take control of the House, four of the targeted seats are those held in Orange County by Republicans Ed Royce, Darrell Issa, Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher.
“Royce – he’s always going on about the private sector,” said Ellison, who also serves as a Minnesota congressman. “He should join it. Same with Issa, Walters and Rohrabacher.”
The crowd of about 800 in the Costa Mesa Hilton banquet hall was twice the size of many of the party’s annual dinners, which have typically drawn 400 to 500 of the county’s faithful. And it roughly matched the usual size of the county GOP’s similar event.
That reflects a demographic shift that is erasing Republicans’ longstanding advantage in the county. Two decades ago, the GOP led Democrats in voter registration by 20 percentage points. That’s steadily shrunken, and is now at 3.4 points.
The gap has been closing particularly fast since Donald Trump won the GOP nomination last year – down from 5.7 points in July. If sustained, that pace that would see Democrats taking the lead before the 2020 presidential election, according to party calculations.
“It’s the new infusion of people into the party because of Trump,” said party Vice Chairman Jeff LeTourneau in explaining turnout Saturday “And the huge infusion of candidates who each brought their people.”
Too many candidates?
Of the 22 Democrats who’ve already launched campaigns against the county’s four GOP House members, at least 10 were on hand Saturday. In years past, it often took until the spring before a single candidate could be recruited to challenge a Republican incumbent.
Nick Anas, a former executive director for the county party, joked to the crowd that being able to tie one’s shoes was qualification enough to run as a Democrat in the past.
“The quality of people who are (now) stepping up to serve is incredible,” he said.
In fact, a growing concern among many is that there may be too many contenders.
“In this early phase, it’s a good thing – it gets a lot of people involved and…