Already Blue California Might Get Bluer Still

A Southern California Republican in a swing seat announces his retirement — plus, if Oprah runs for president, she might do so as a Californian.

As the U.S. Senate comes back in session with a Republican majority that’s one-third slimmer than it was in 2017, one thing is still clear: California remains the focal point of anti-Trumpism in American politics. It’s not just newly legalized adult-use cannabis versus a retrograde attorney general who wants to resurrect the drug war specifically to put people of color in prison. It’s also about California as a sanctuary state, and about the tax scam that screws over California homeowners (although we should monitor just how many tears we spill on that one).

As The New York Times put it yesterday:

New laws that went into effect on Jan. 1 in California raised the minimum wage, allowed parents to withhold gender on birth certificates and strengthened what were already some of the toughest gun laws in the country by restricting ammunition sales and assault weapons, and barring school officials from carrying concealed weapons at work. Taken together, the measures are the surest signs yet of how California is setting itself apart from Washington — and many parts of America, too.

Or, as Quartz put it the other day, California essentially became a different state on Jan. 1, one hard at work enshrining its vision into law. Whatever you think about the possibility of President Oprah, keep this much in mind: She lives in Montecito, and if she were to run in 2020, she would undoubtedly have a strong base of support in the state.

But that’s still mostly within the realm of speculation. Although we have major reservations about the merits of the Democratic Party overall, there is one demonstrably effective way to push back against the corruption and climate change-denying bigotry of the Trump administration. It’s pretty simple, really: Talk to everyone you know, and encourage them to vote for Democrats in 2018, and again in 2020.

It’s a lesson that Californians have been listening to for a while. Of the 53 representatives the state sends to Washington, 39 are Democrats and only 14 are Republicans. Of those 14, seven are in districts that backed Clinton over Trump in 2016, meaning the ground was threatening to fall in under them even before everything started pointing to 2018 being a wave year. And did those Republicans wise up? No, they did not. Way back in May, when Obamacare repeal was sluggishly working its way through Congress on its way to defeat, all 14 California Republicans voted to throw millions of their fellow citizens to the wolves, so we shone a spotlight on a few of the ones who’d acted callously even as they faced an uphill battle in 2018. The series was called, “Hi! I’m Congressman X, and I Voted to Make People Die.” (Owing to SF Weekly‘s looming Best Of issue, we weren’t able to profile all seven, sadly.)

Well, one of them saw the future and it didn’t involve him. Ed Royce of Fullerton, a 13-term legislator who’s also chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — and who, just to hammer the point home, voted to make people die — has decided to call it quits at the end of his term. Royce represents California’s 39th District, which covers parts of L.A, Orange, and San Bernardino counties. After voting 51-47 for Romney over Obama in 2012, it swerved 13 percentage points to the left to go 52-43 for Clinton. So it was rapidly becoming inhospitable terrain for a conservative Republican.

Royce is no moderate, either. Although he has a good record as a conservationist, he’s voted with Trump almost 97 percent of the time, and in doing so, he drew multiple challengers. One of them, the O.C. Register reported, was set to self-fund to the tune of $2 million — a pretty decent start, although less than the $3.5 million Royce had amassed by the fall.

Think about how scared you have to be as a 13-term veteran in your party’s leadership to walk away from a $3.5 million war chest. Even if Royce was starting to sweat, there was still a decent possibility that energized opposition could result in a multi-car pile-up of Democrats crashing into each other in the primary, leaving their ultimate winner bruised and bloodied and Royce comparatively unscathed. (That’s exactly what happened in 2012 in a congressional district right next door.) But nope, Royce didn’t want to take his chances.

With no incumbent running, this seat is now either a toss-up or slightly Democratic leaning — and it should be interesting to see if the increasingly desperate GOP writes it off altogether to shore up support for embattled incumbents elsewhere. Well done, Resistance. You just made a seasoned pro poop his pants with fear.

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