(This is the start of my multi-part series on emerging Western Congressional races in 2010.)
If we're to believe the local news reports, Democrats may actually lose a Congressional seat in Southern California. Central Orange County Assembly Member/Local GOP Power Broker Van Tran has announced he will challenge seven-term Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez next year. Already, Republicans are cheering victory and preparing to dance on Loretta's political grave... But are they celebrating too early?
Believe it or not, the GOP is. But how can that be? Isn't Orange County extremely conservative and Republican-friendly? Not exactly.
Overall, the county is changing and becoming less of a "red county" and more of a "swing county". But in the 47th Congressional District, we saw quite a sharp turn left in the once "swing district" now turning increasingly blue. President Barack Obama cruised to a 60-38 win in the district last November. Just in the last three years, Democrats have jumped from a meager 4% registration advantage to a much heftier 12% advantage. And of course, Loretta had no problem crushing her GOP opponent by a gigantic 69-25 margin while Van Tran struggled to defeat a Democrat with little money in his own State Assembly district by a tinier 54-46 margin. So what is The OC Register seeing that I'm not when they say my home district will be among "the hottest races in 2010"?
I guess they see the GOP pouring money into this district and galvanizing the Vietnamese-American vote. And let's face it, they're trying hard to score a win anywhere they can find. But even if Van can build a massive campaign operation, he still needs to overcome his own controversial reputation in Little Saigon while simultaneously eroding Loretta's long history of serving this district. Oh yes, and it doesn't help Van that he's been shopping for a race, any race, to win now that he's termed out of the Assembly while Loretta's been busy preparing for just this kind of challenge.
So what should we do? Well, we shouldn't just take CA-47 for granted, even with all the good stats in our favor. Rather, we should see these good stats as encouragement to make sure Loretta Sanchez defeats Van Tran by a large enough margin to provide coattails to Democrats running to turn GOP-held "red" state & local seats (like Van's own 68th AD seat) blue. Since we need to undo the damage of both the radical right ideologues still running local governments in Orange County and the GOP minority in Sacramento that's still large enough to hold the state hostage, this can be our opportunity to not just keep the 47th Congressional District strongly "blue", but also elect more Democrats to office in OC.
And hey, Loretta deserves our support. She's been voting more progressive as the district's been turning bluer. And though she once had to tout "Blue Dog" membership to win over moderate Republicans, she's been doing a good job of listening to what we the constituents wants and voting accordingly. And more importantly, she always works hard for Orange County and delivers real results for real people. That's why all the local school districts, police departments, fire departments, and city agencies go to Loretta first to ensure our tax dollars come home to work for us.
So if you can, please make sure Loretta Sanchez goes back to Congress in 2010. But not only are we investing in Loretta's reelection, we're also investing in building a stronger Democratic majority in Central Orange County and a more progressive future for the whole county. We're turning OC bluer one new Democratic voter registration at a time, and we shouldn't let a Van Tran challenge scare us away from continuing our good work.