Redistricting could shift partisan odds in local districts months before the 2022 primary.
A month after voters cast ballots in the California Gubernatorial Recall Election at the Huntington Beach Central Library in Huntington Beach, talk of the 2022 midterm elections is heating up.. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)By BROOKE STAGGS | firstname.lastname@example.org | Orange County RegisterPUBLISHED: October 19, 2021 at 6:54 p.m. | UPDATED: October 20, 2021 at 9:29 a.m.
Though the 2022 midterms are more than a year away the political battleground of Orange County is tight enough, and the stakes high enough, that candidates running for local House seats have already raised $19 million, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
And all of the local House races — two of which are considered highly competitive and two others marginally so — also are just weeks away from serious potential shakeups.
Once-in-a-decade redistricting is expected to shift the geography and the electoral lean of every political district in the country. By year’s end, those changes could bring new candidates and a flurry of new fundraising if incumbents wind up looking more vulnerable than they do today.
So far, in the most competitive seats, GOP Reps. Michelle Steel and Young Kim, who both flipped their districts to win in 2020, are out-fundraising their Democratic challengers, Harley Rouda and Jay Chen, by margins close to two to one. Still, Rouda and Chen have each brought in more than $1 million, with some experts predicting that voters in those districts (CA-48 and CA-39, respectively) will lean more to the left after boundaries are redrawn.
Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Mike Levin, who flipped CA-45 and CA-49 in 2018 and held them in 2020, look more solid heading into next year. Porter continues to post massive fundraising hauls, with no high-profile GOP candidates so far challenging her. And Democrats in Levin’s district continue to expand their once slim advantage in voter registration.
But these districts could see significant changes when boundary lines move during redistricting. Official drafts of new district maps are due Nov. 15 and the deadline for final boundaries is Dec. 15. However, some unofficial maps floated during recent California Citizens Redistricting Commission meetings suggest registration in Porter’s district, which now has 6,652 more Democrats than Republicans, could shift to the right while Kim’s district, which now has 22,000 more Democrats than Republicans, could become deeper blue. For example, one proposal gives Porter a portion of conservative Yorba Linda and Kim a slice of solidly blue Anaheim.
Levin — along with local Democratic Reps. Lou Correa and Linda Sanchez, who are both in solidly blue districts and have drawn no major political challengers the last two cycles — faces zero or minimal risk from redistricting, according to a ranking from Cook Political Report. The same report suggests Kim, Porter, Steel and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach all face a slight risk. Porter’s district is overpopulated while Kim, Lowenthal and Steel represent underpopulated districts.
Porter’s growing national profile might offset the risk she might face in redistricting. That profile helped her raise $2.7 million in the third quarter, more money than any other Democrat in the House. More than 97% came from individual donors. Porter is now sitting on $14.5 million in cash.
Among Porter’s six GOP challengers, two have some traction in terms of campaign funds. Brian Burley of Huntington Beach, an IT professional who last year lost a primary challenge to Steel in CA-48, has banked $304,627 this cycle, though he loaned himself nearly three-quarters of that total. And Shawn Collins, an attorney and Navy veteran who lives in Trabuco Canyon, has raised $206,543 entirely from individual donations.
In the 39th District — which includes portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties — Kim raised $981,170 last quarter. She had $1.95 million in cash at the end of last month.
Democratic challenger Chen of Hacienda Heights, an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserves who owns a real estate firm, raised $351,043 during the third quarter. His campaign had $782,081 in the bank. Republican challenger Eric Ching, Walnut’s Mayor Pro-Tem, raised $11,025 last quarter and had $29,955 in cash. And repeat challenger Steve Cox, an independent from Chino Hills, hasn’t reported raising any money so far this election cycle.
In CA-48 — which runs along coastal Orange County, from Seal Beach to Laguna Beach, and where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly 21,000 — Steel raised $751,480 in the third quarter of the year in her bid to keep the seat. Her campaign owes $211,455, including $150,000 left on a 2020 loan from herself. She reported $1.35 million in cash heading into October.
Rouda, of Laguna Beach, raised $376,904 in the third quarter. He had $604,008 in campaign cash.
Independent Chris Balasinski of Newport Beach filed to join the CA-48 race but has yet to report any fundraising.
In CA-49, a narrowly blue district that includes southern Orange County and northern San Diego County, Levin of San Juan Capistrano raised $501,490 in the third quarter. At the start of this month Levin had $2.3 million in cash.
Two Republicans from opposite ends of CA-49 are squaring off to face Levin in the general election.
Repeat CA-49 challenger Brian Maryott — a Republican from San Juan Capistrano who won 46.9% of the vote while losing to Levin in November — raised $619,349 over the past three months. But that includes another $500,000 he loaned to his own campaign. Maryott now has $566,010 in cash.
Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez, who’s also a Republican, raised $303,609 in the third quarter, including a $50,000 loan from himself. He reported having $310,363 in cash at the end of the third quarter.
A third Republican, Anne Elizabeth from Dana Point, filed to run for CA-49 in September but hasn’t reported any fundraising to date.
Two local Democratic incumbents in solidly blue districts so far face their biggest challengers from the left.
In central O.C.’s 46th District, Correa, D-Anaheim, raised $203,115 during the third quarter. His largest donors include trade union and corporate PACs, left-leaning committees and Phillips 66 oil company. When that number is combined with funds rolled over from previous cycles, Correa has $1.5 million in cash on hand.
CA-46 challenger Michael Ortega, a biomedical engineer from Anaheim who has pledged not to take corporate PAC money, supports progressive Democratic policies such as Medicare for All, abolishing ICE and the Green New Deal. He’s raised $20,351, all from individual donors, with $8,279 left in cash.
Cecelia Truman, a Republican from Menifee who lost a 2020 bid for a seat on her city council, is also challenging Correa. She’s raised $35 this cycle.
In CA-38, which is primarily in southern Los Angeles County but includes a small slice of north Orange County, Sanchez, D-Whittier, took in $171,033 in contributions during the third quarter of the year. She has $927,769 in cash on hand with funds rolled over from previous elections.
Challenger Sylvester Ani Jr. of Cerritos, a Democrat who runs a nonprofit to help marginalized communities, raised $9,304 in the third quarter, with $9,515 left in cash. Democrat Elizabeth Moreira of Norwalk, an Army veteran who works in hospitality management, raised $2,015 last quarter and had $4,444 in cash. Republican Paul Irvine Jones, a reverend from Lakewood, hasn’t reported any fundraising in the CA-38 race.
The only local challenger who appeared to raise more than the incumbent last quarter came on the northwest edge of Orange County, where five-term Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, faces a repeat matchup with Republican John Briscoe in CA-47. But funds for Briscoe, a marketing instructor who lost to Lowenthal in November, came entirely from $270,000 in loans he made to himself. He had $255,306 left in cash heading into the fourth quarter.
Lowenthal, who last year was re-elected with 63% of the vote, raised $46,057 during the third quarter in his bid to keep the solidly blue district that includes northwest Orange County and southwest L.A. County. He reported $443,783 in cash with funds rolled over from previous elections.
Republican Michelle Lyons of Long Beach, who owns a modeling school, also is challenging Lowenthal this cycle. The former independent, who became an ordained minister during the pandemic, has raised $21,515 this cycle. She has $9,338 in cash left and $14,405 in outstanding debt.
The next fundraising reports, covering all of 2021, are due to the FEC by Jan. 31.