Orange County in California has always been synonymous with Republican power. But the party’s stronghold is slipping, with Republicans now accounting for just 41 percent of registered voters.
In comparison, in mid-1996 registered Republicans eclipsed Democrats 52 percent to 32 percent and no Orange County Democrat held a partisan elected office on the county, state or federal level, according to The Los Angeles Times.
A major reason is changing demographics. The voting districts in and around the county seat of Santa Ana, for example, are now largely Hispanic.
On Election Day, for the second straight time, the once reliable city of Irvine picked President Obama over the Republican nominee. And this year, a northwest part of the Southern California county went to Democrats when Republican assemblyman and outspoken conservative Chairs Norby lost to Hispanic school teacher Sharon Quirk-Silva.
Scott Baugh, chairman of the county's Republican Party, attributed the loss to "not fully appreciating the demographic shift and not seeing it in time."
He and other Republicans say Latinos belong naturally in the GOP, citing a cultural emphasis on faith, family, education and the value of hard work. They say the party can win over Hispanic votes in large part by leading the way in comprehensive immigration reform.