Democrats now outnumber Republicans in Orange County, onetime GOP stronghold

Orange County famously helped launch Ronald Reagan’s political career in the 1960s, and it’s also home to Richard Nixon’s presidential library.
Democratic supporters
Supporters of Harley Rouda, the Democratic congressional candidate for California's 48th District, attend a get-out-the-vote rally in Laguna Beach, California on Nov. 6, 2018.Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — Democrats in California are celebrating a new milestone: They now outnumber Republicans in the longtime GOP stronghold of Orange County.

As of Wednesday, data from the Orange County Registrar of Voters showed that registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans, 547,458 to 547,369.

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Another 440,711 voters in the county are registered as unaffiliated with any political party.

Beyond the numbers, the symbolism of the flip makes Democrats particularly buoyant. Orange County famously helped launch President Ronald Reagan's political career in the 1960s, and it is also home to President Richard Nixon’s presidential library.

Once among the reddest counties in the state, the region more recently became the site of devastating GOP losses in the 2018 midterms, with Democrats gaining control of every House district in the county. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump there during the 2016 presidential election — the first time since the Great Depression that the Democratic nominee prevailed over the Republican candidate.

Demographic experts largely attribute the shift to a growing Latino and Asian population that’s also becoming more Democratic-leaning.

In Orange County, the population that identified as white alone as of 2017 was estimated to be around 41 percent, down 10 points since 2000.

In contrast, Latinos now make up 34 percent of the county’s population (up three percent since 2000), Asian Americans make up 21 percent (up seven percent) and African Americans make up 4 percent (which is unchanged since 2000).