I heard Assemblyman Tom Daly say last week that the 65th Assembly District here in Orange County will be the Democrats’ second-highest priority in 2014. This is no surprise; freshman Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva narrowly beat incumbent Chris Norby in 2012. The Fullerton Democrat’s upset victory on the tails of Obama’s reelection gave her party its first legislative supermajority in 120 years.
The 65th Assembly District includes Fullerton, Buena Park, Stanton, La Palma, Cypress and west Anaheim. Party identification figures are tight, with Democrats accounting for 36.3% of registered voters while Republicans account for 35.9%. Among those who do not identify with one of the two major parties, Republican candidates traditionally have an edge. But despite her center-right constituency, Quirk-Silva will be running on a far-left record.
Her controversial votes include: 1) approval of a ballot referendum that would amend the sacred Prop. 13 to pay for “public improvements and facilities . . . for buildings used primarily to provide sheriff, police or fire protection services.”; 2) a bill allowing transgender students to take part in school sports and other sex-segregated activities, and use sex-segregated facilities “consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”; 3) a failed proposal that would have penalized large corporations for cutting hours or wages so low that workers ended up on taxpayer-funded programs like Medi-Cal; and, most damaging of all, 4) a variety of gun-control measures.
To make matters worse for Quirk-Silva, 2014 is looking to be a big Republican year. Voter turn-out among Republicans is higher in mid-term elections. Moreover, the party opposite to that of a second-term President traditionally carries the day. As such, Quirk-Silva, who won with 51.3% of the vote, was going to face a tough reelection battle even before she amassed her far-left voting record in Sacramento. Lastly, the fall-out from the implementation of Obamacare will likely motivate middle-class Republican and independent voters to express their discontent at the polls.
If the Assemblywoman wins, it will be because Republicans failed to reach out to minority voters, particularly AD 65’s large Latino community. The ethnically diverse district in north Orange County includes large blocs of Latino, Asian and Middle Eastern voters. Latinos, roughly 39% of the population, are crucial to a Quirk-Silva victory. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Latino turn-out is traditionally lower in mid-term elections. As such, we can expect Quirk-Silva’s biggest fans, the labor unions, to do all they can to excite turn-out among Latinos. The Orange County Employees Association recently exploited a controversy in the Anaheim portion of the district over local police violence. The union attempted to demonize the Republican Party for the work of a political consultant hired by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.
Labor will surely make more attempts at demagoguery within AD 65’s Latino community. Republicans must counter such efforts by reaching out to working-class Latinos and capitalizing on their increasing disillusion with Democrats. Obama’s approval rating among Latinos have plunged 23 points from December of last year to November of this year. Latinos, particularity in California, have also been frustrated by Obamacare’s problematic roll-out. As such, Republican are in a good position to prevent Democrats from exploiting the Latino vote in AD 65. In sum, the district is the GOP’s to lose in 2014.