FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) — The Democratic drive to take control of the U.S. House in November might rise or fall on the California coast. As part of its strategy, the party is targeting four Republican-held seats in Orange County, southeast of Los Angeles, which Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election.
Meanwhile, the county, a one-time Republican stronghold, has gradually grown more diverse and Democratic in its politics. Here’s a look at candidates in the four districts in play:
39TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
It includes parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
— Young Kim, Republican. The 55-year-old South Korean immigrant and former state lawmaker worked for retiring Rep. Ed Royce for years and is well-known in the district, where registration is closely divided. She’s running as a supporter of President Donald Trump with an independent streak. She says she opposes increased trade tariffs imposed by the administration. Kim was born in South Korea and grew up in Guam before coming to the U.S.
— Gil Cisneros, Democrat. The 47-year-old Navy veteran and former Frito-Lay manager is a first-time candidate arguing for change in gridlocked Washington. The son of a public school cafeteria worker and a Vietnam veteran, Cisneros and his wife won a $266 million lottery jackpot and run a charitable foundation. He says he wants to continue in public service and that voters are often surprised that someone with his wealth would want to get involved in the nasty partisan battles on Capitol Hill.
45TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Entirely in Orange County.
— Rep. Mimi Walters, Republican. She was re-elected two years ago by a 17-point margin in a district where Republicans have a shrinking registration edge. Walters, 56, has been promoting the region’s economic growth under Trump’s stewardship. The former investment banker and state lawmaker supported the president on the federal tax overhaul and Republicans’ attempts to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law.
— Katie Porter, Democrat. The 44-year-old law professor was appointed by former state Attorney General Kamala Harris to oversee California’s share of a $25 billion national mortgage settlement following the housing crisis. She’s a protege of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who’s a favorite of the party’s liberal wing. Porter wants to overturn Trump’s tax plan and she supports universal health care.
48TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Entirely in Orange County.
— Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Republican. The congressman was easily re-elected two years ago, but Democrats see an opportunity to oust a long-serving member whose name has come up in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He has denied any wrongdoing. Rohrabacher, 71, is a one-time cold warrior who became Russia’s leading defender on Capitol Hill. The guitar-strumming congressman who loves to surf is a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan and is known for his longtime support for legalized marijuana and skepticism about climate change.
— Harley Rouda, Democrat. The businessman, real estate developer and lawyer is making his first run for the House. The Republican-turned-Democrat says he’s not a politician but is tired of Washington representatives failing to meet the needs of the people they serve. His ads depict him as a Democrat in the mold of Obama. “We need new leadership that trusts science, acts on climate change, demands that polluters clean up their mess,” Rouda, 56, says on his website.
49TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
It includes parts of San Diego and Orange counties.
— Diane Harkey, Republican. Nine-term Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is stepping aside after surviving his 2016 race by 1,600 votes, a confirmation that the once solidly Republican district has grown more Democratic. Harkey, a former state lawmaker who sits on a state tax board and earlier worked in corporate finance and banking, has been endorsed by Trump. The president’s campaign recently tweeted that she would be a “great supporter” of Trump’s agenda. Harkey, 67, has called her Democratic rival out of step with the district and warned of higher taxes, runaway regulations and government-run health care with Democrats in charge.
— Mike Levin, Democrat. The environmental attorney has sparred with Harkey over Trump’s agenda, global warming and immigration. “Sorry, President Trump, but climate change is real,” he says in an online video. Levin, who turns 40 on Saturday, has called Harkey a “rubber stamp” for the White House. On his website, he says he will not be a rigid partisan in Washington but wants to build coalitions to improve the environment and establish universal health care.
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