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A Key Race in the O.C.--Democrat Katie Porter v. GOPer Mimi Walters

Another Golden State Race Rumble—Democrat Katie Porter Taking on Trump Lackey Mimi Walters October 11, 2018

“California Here We Come, Right Back Where We Started From.” In 6/2018, I wrote blog posts discussing how several Golden State races are a major linchpin in the Democrats’ attempt to flip a net 23 congressional seats. Winning this magic political number would give “Team Blue” a House majority. Four of those key Golden State races are centered in the O.C.—CA’s Orange County. Orange County? Right. The O.C. was known for years as the bastion of right-wing conservatism and a stronghold of the extremist John Birch Society. It was Ronald Reagan’s rock-ribbed base in his gubernatorial and presidential runs. However, in politics, nothing remains static. Anglo O.C. has been demographically transformed by heavy Hispanic and Asian immigration (latimes.com, Mai-Duc, 6/06/18, nytimes.com, Yee, 6/03/18). In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the O.C., the first time a Democrat had won here since FDR’s 1936 re-election. Hillary won the O.C. by an 8.59% margin with 609, 961 votes to Donald’s 507, 148 (latimes.com, Mai-Duc, nytimes.com, 8/01/17, sos.cagov, 12/16/16). Hillary won four O.C. congressional districts where GOP representatives were re-elected, the 39th, 45th, 48th, and 49th (Frere, abc7.com, 6/05/18). It’s now time to return to the O.C. and laser focus on the 2018 race in the CA 45th where Democrat Katie Porter is taking on GOP Congresswoman Mimi Walters.

Second-term Congresswoman Marian Elaine “Mimi” Walters (56) represents CA’s 45th Congressional District, CD, located entirely in Orange County. The current 45th CD is made up of central and south Orange County. It contains the cities of Irvine, Coto de Caza, and Rancho Santa Margarita. It includes parts of Anaheim, Orange, Mission Viejo, and Laguna Niguel. Irvine, O.C.’s third largest city, is home to the University of California, Irvine (UCI), the 45th’s largest employer. In addition to higher education, the 45th’s economic pillars are technology and health care. Edwards Lifesciences, the developer of the world’s first heart valve replacement, is in the 45th (Barone & CQ Political Almanacs 14).

The Golden State 45th has planned suburbs and attractive subdivisions filled with wealthy and highly educated people, many attracted to high-tech and high-growth businesses. The CA 45th has a median income of more than $90,000, among the nation’s highest. Although majority white, it is 23% Asian and 18% Hispanic. The GOP has a 9% lead in voter registration. In 2008, McCain won here with 52% of the vote. In 2012, Romney took the 45th with 55% of the vote. In 2016, however, Hillary defeated Donald by 5% (CQ & Barone 14, Lauter, latimes.com/politics, 10/04/18, ocregister.com, Wisckol, 4/05/17, Harwood, cnbc.com, 9/08/18). The 4/07/2017 Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) gives the 45th a weak R+3 score.

Mimi Walters received her 1984 undergraduate degree from UCLA. From 1988-1995, Walters was an investment banker (walters-biobox, articles.latimes.com, 5/26/10, waltershouse.gov, 12/11/12). Walters served as chair of Laguna Niguel’s investment and banking committee. In 1996, she joined the Laguna Niguel City Council, after a member vacated his seat, and later became Mayor (Messina, latimes.com, 12/19/96). In 2004, Walters won election to the CA State Assembly and was re-elected in 2006. In 2008, Walters won election to the CA State Senate (“Roll Call,” media.cq.com). In 2010, Walters lost the election for State Treasurer to her Democratic opponent (“2010 State Treasurer General Election Results”). When the incumbent GOP 45th Congressman decided not to run in 2014, Walters defeated her Democratic rival with 65% of the vote (nytimes.com/elections). After raising over $2 million, Walters won a second term in 2016 with a 17-point margin over her Democratic opponent (opensecrets.org).

In the House, Cong. Walters has one strong right-wing record. In 2017-2018, the current 115th Congress, Walters and wacko TX GOP Cong. Louie Gohmert have agreed on 91% of their votes. During that same time period, Cong. Walters and GOP zealot Darrell Issa, the retiring Rep. from the neighboring O.C./San Diego County CA 49th CD, have agreed on 96% of their votes (projectspropublica.org). Walters opposes abortion, but de-emphasizes it when campaigning. In her first term, she served on the GOP’s Select Panel to investigate Planned Parenthood, a ridiculous witch hunt (see ocregister.com, 7/23/15, Wisckol, youtube.com/watch,10/07/15). Walters has a “D” rating from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group supporting the legalization of marijuana. About 26% of the 45th’s residents are under 20, a group that favors legalization (CQ 14, see norml.org).

Although Walters initially endorsed Jeb Bush in 2016, she later endorsed Donald wholeheartedly (See fivethirtyeight.com, 7/20/16, Wire, latimes.com, 5/13/16). Walters often tries to avoid the existence of Donald who remains unpopular in the 45th (see latimes.com, Mai-Duc, 10/05/18). However, Walters sometimes “trips up” in her TAS, “Trump avoidance strategy.” She showed her real views with this comment, “He (Donald) stands for what we stand for (Bloomberg, 2/18/18).” Cong. Walters later told columnist John Harwood that “she does not believe that Trump is dangerous.” She added, “He has a very good team around him, and I believe he’s doing what he thinks is right.” She praised Trump for “communicating with the people of this country and letting them know what he thinks.” GOP Walters stated, “I can’t be held responsible for his actions (Harwood, cnbc.com, 9/08/18).” Translation: don’t ask me to check Donald’s excesses. She sure doesn’t. Despite her now swingy district voting for Hillary, Cong. Walters has voted with Donald 99% of the time. She is the eighth-most partisan Trump supporter in the House when compared to her district’s voting patterns (projects.fivethirtyeight.com).

Walters voted to repeal Obamacare in 2015 and on 5/04/2017, while claiming to protect patients with pre-existing conditions. However, the 5/2017 GOP Obamacare “replacement” bill allowed insurance companies to charge higher premiums on pre-existing conditions (USA Today, 5/04/17). Fortunately, the attempts to repeal Obamacare died in the Senate in 7/2017. Cong. Walters voted for the anti-middle-class top 1% tax cut which did pass Congress and was signed by Donald. She voted for this bill even though it raised taxes on Californians because it removed state and local tax breaks that many Golden State residents used. This regressive deficit busting bill also repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate. The repeal of this mandate could hurt many CA districts with a lot of Obamacare enrollees (latimes.com, 11/16/17). Walters additionally voted in support of the Keystone Pipeline (walters.house.gov). You get the idea.

Democratic Katie Porter (43) strongly opposes her opponent Walters’ right-wing/Trump ideology. Porter received her undergraduate degree from Yale and a law degree from Harvard. At Harvard, she studied with then Professor, now MA Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. Porter and Warren co-authored a law school text book, “The Law of Debtors and Creditors,” a leading book on consumer and business bankruptcy. Porter also wrote two other books that emphasized the effects of bankruptcy on consumers (Porter Curriculum Vitae). For the past twenty years, Porter has been a law professor and consumer protection attorney. Since 2011, she has been a Law Professor at UC Irvine’s School of Law where she teaches consumer law. Even before the housing bubble burst in 2008 causing a severe recession, Porter was one of the first people to sound the alarm about Wall Street’s predatory practices targeting homeowners. She won recognition from the NY Times and many others for her analysis. The O.C. was hit hard by this housing crisis. In 2012, then CA Atty. General, now CA Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, appointed Hill to be CA’s watchdog against Wall Street banks. These banks had promised to pay billions to homeowners they had cheated. Porter and her team secured over $18 billion from five of the biggest Wall Street banks and helped tens of thousands of families move forward with their lives (katieporter.com). Porter has been a key player in the fight against abusive credit card fees. In 2010, she helped pass important federal credit card protections for families (katieporter.com).

Porter, now a tenured law professor, stated she decided to run for Congress to hold Donald and his special interest friends accountable to O.C. families, which Cong. Walters has not done. Porter noted that O.C. families are still stuck facing high housing costs and high college tuitions. Porter has strongly attacked Cong. Walters for leading the fight to pass the tax cut that raises taxes on middle-class families while cutting taxes for the top 1% and wealthy corporations. She has also taken on Walters for being a devoted supporter of Donald’s health care plan that had it passed, would have eliminated health care coverage for 24 million Americans. Porter has also criticized Walters voting with Wall Street banks to roll back consumer protections. She has noted that Walters has sided with Donald and big oil companies to roll back clean air rules and environmental standards. The 45th CD has heavy traffic problems that could lead to pollution. It also has a wilderness area in the Santa Ana Mountains that residents enjoy. Porter unhesitatingly attacks Walters for being a Trump lackey by pointing to her pro-Donald 99% voting record (See CQ 14, katieporter.com). Porter has been endorsed by Senators Warren and Harris. Porter has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, a major PAC, political action committee, that aims to help elect pro-choice female Democratic candidates. Porter has also been backed by the Off the Sidelines PAC, managed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), another possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

A DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) Poll, conducted by Tulchin Research from 8/10-8/14/2018, gave Porter a 3% lead, not beyond that poll’s 4.38% margin of error (rollcall.com, Bowman, 9/06/18). The latest survey done by the Berkeley IGS Poll of likely voters, conducted between 9/16-9/23/18, gives Porter a 7% lead, 52%-45%, too close to that poll’s 4-6% margin of error (latimes.com, Lauter, 10/04/18). Yes, Trump remains unpopular in the affluent/college-educated 45th, but Walters remains better known from her legislative service. Additionally, any GOP “enthusiasm” over Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court could turn out more GOP voters who, remember, have more numbers in this district. Such “Red” turnout could give Walters the win (Seelatimes.com, Wisckol, ocregister.com). Walters, remember, is a strong fund-raiser. The National Association of Realtors and the CA Realtors PAC, which often support GOPers, are sending out mailers and digital ads backing Porter because Walters supported the 1% tax cut bill that will hurt home purchases in CA (see docquery.fec. gov). However, most GOP national groups are spending strongly for Walters. The anti-environmental/pro-oil Koch Brothers are also in her corner. In 2014, they gave Walters $5,000. In 2018, they have already given her at least $10,000 (opensecrets.org, prwatch.org). Democrats must answer in kind with financial donations to Porter’s campaign. Most important, however, is for national and local Democratic groups to make sure that in early voting and on 11/06/2018, Porter supporters cast ballots in droves to defeat Trump lackey Walters. Again, control of the House, which will check Donald’s excesses, requires Porter to win the O.C. 45th. Nothing is “in the bag,” and nothing can be taken for granted in Campaign 2018.