What Newsom’s Victory in Orange County Says About 2022

Orange County residents cast their ballots in last week’s recall election.Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

Orange County — despite its historical associations with famous conservatives of yore, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and John Wayne — hasn’t been a Republican stronghold for years.

Back in 2016, headlines trumpeted that Hillary Clinton turned Orange County blue during the presidential election. In 2018, my colleagues wrote that Democrats flipped four Orange County congressional seats, a sweep that turned “a Republican fortress” Democratic.

Of course, 2020 showed that those pronouncements may have been premature: The county chose President Biden over former President Donald J. Trump, but two of those congressional districts returned to Republican control with the victories of Representative Michelle Steel and Representative Young Kim, both among the first three Korean American women in Congress.

Kim told me last year that her election represented a new direction for the Republican Party.

“This is not a Trump or Biden issue,” she said. “That’s how I’m going to work.”

Then came the recall election, offering political analysts a rare opportunity to take the temperature in key parts of California a year before the 2022 midterms. As my colleague Shane Goldmacher and I reported over the weekend, they were watching Orange County closely.

The region is no longer a wealthy, reliably conservative enclave, but a vision of the future of large suburban counties across the nation: increasingly diverse and politically complex — which makes it tantalizing to both major parties, who see the territory as up for grabs by candidates who run nuanced campaigns.

“In Orange County, if you run a cookie-cutter campaign, you are going to lose,” Jim Brulte, a former chairman of the California Republican Party who lives in San Juan Capistrano, told Shane.

Gov. Gavin Newsom depicted his fight to keep his job as a matter of life and death, as a battle for California’s progressive values against a Trumpian power grab. And as of Wednesday, the vote in Orange County was 51.7 percent against the recall.

Voters I spoke with in Ladera Ranch, a very Republican bedroom community near San Juan Capistrano, told me they sensed the political makeup of their neighborhoods changing — although few discuss politics in person. Mostly, partisan fights have played out in Facebook groups.

Candice Carvalho, 42, a Democrat in Ladera Ranch who voted against the recall, said she and her neighbors were exhausted from the bitter partisan divides that for many defined the Trump presidency.

“I think that everyone’s had such a rough year and a half that I have this feeling that people want to — not reunite, but let’s kind of get back together,” she said. “Let’s just move forward.”

But how that weariness with partisanship will translate next year in House races depends on what lessons the Republican Party takes from the recall, analysts said.

Representative Katie Porter, a Democrat who was elected to her seat in the Irvine area in 2018 and won again in 2020, told me her victories had hinged on engaging voters of both parties on issues important to them.

“Until you have a sense of where the Republican Party is going to land in its values, with science and gender equality and fighting climate change,” she said, “it’s difficult to know at this point how you would best engage across party lines.”

For more:

  • Read the full article about what the recall election results in Orange County say about the 2022 midterms.

  • Catch up on all the recall coverage you missed.

  • Here’s an extremely detailed map of how neighborhoods voted in the 2020 presidential election and how that changed from 2016.

Boat docks sitting on dry land in May at the Browns Ravine Cove area of drought-stricken Folsom Lake, at 37 percent of its normal capacity at the time, in Folsom.Credit…Josh Edelson/Associated Press

The rest of the news

  • Reproductive rights: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two laws aimed at protecting the privacy of people seeking abortions, drawing a sharp contrast with Texas. One prohibits filming near an abortion clinic, while the other makes it easier to keep sensitive medical information confidential, according to The Associated Press.

  • School staff shortage: From Los Angeles to Fresno to San Francisco, California schools are facing a major shortage of teachers and staff members. Some districts have hired teachers from out of state, while others are sending students home with “now hiring” fliers, The Associated Press reports.

  • Drought statistics: Data released on Tuesday paints a grim picture of California’s drought, CalMatters reports.

  • Stimulus checks: The third round of the Golden Gate Stimulus will be sent out on Oct. 5, according to SFGate.

  • Farm workers march: The United Farm Workers marched after the governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed them to vote by mail in union elections, The Sacramento Bee reports. They were headed to the French Laundry.


  • LoanDepot: The former chief operations officer of loanDepot filed a lawsuit against Anthony Hsieh, the mortgage company’s chief executive, accusing him of scheming to increase sales by flouting regulations and taking on risky loans.

  • George Holliday: The man who videotaped the traffic stop in which Los Angeles police officers beat Rodney G. King in 1991 died on Sunday. Read his obituary here.

  • Swatting incident lawsuit: A co-founder of Black Lives Matter L.A., Melina Abdullah, has sued Los Angeles and its Police Department over the response to a “swatting” incident, where someone purposely calls in a false emergency to draw armed police officers, at her house last summer, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Forests reopening: A closure order for national forests in Southern California — Los Padres, San Bernardino and Cleveland — that was originally issued on Aug. 31 in response to wildfires ended Wednesday night, NBC Los Angeles reports.

  • Protest restrictions: On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council gave final approval to a law that requires a 300-foot buffer around a private residence targeted for demonstration and imposes fines for violators, KTLA reports.

  • Looming strike: The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, representing many workers behind the scenes of television and film productions, is calling for a strike authorization vote over conflicts for better wages and working conditions, ABC7 reports.

  • “Outlaw” cosmetic surgery: A mother and daughter in Riverside were accused of performing unlicensed buttocks augmentation injections that left one woman dead, according to The Associated Press.

  • Amazon: The company opened a three-million-square-foot facility in the San Diego-Tijuana region, making it Amazon’s largest warehouse in California, KXAN reports.


  • Kristin Smart’s murder case: Kristin Smart vanished from a college campus 25 years ago in San Luis Obispo. Paul Flores, the man last seen with her, will stand trial on her murder charge, and his father will face a charge as an accessory, accused of helping bury her body.

  • Hazardous air: Smoke from the nearby KNP Complex and Windy fires are rendering the air unhealthy in the San Joaquin Valley. An air quality alert will be in place through at least Thursday, according to The Fresno Bee.


  • Back on campus: For the first time since March 2020, students had in-person classes at the University of California, Davis, on Wednesday. Vaccinations are required for people on campus, Sacramento CBS Local reports.

  • Racist Instagram: An ex-Oakland police officer fired for a police shooting was running an Instagram account full of misogynist and racist content, with nearly 30 current and former police officers following the page, according to a report by the law firm Clarence Dyer & Cohen LLP, The Oaklandside reports.

  • “Do Not Drink”: Severe algal blooms in Clear Lake have produced high levels of a liver toxin, making the water unsafe to drink for about 280 households, according to Circle of Blue.

Credit…Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

What we’re eating

This mushroom lasagna tastes very rich, even though it really isn’t.

Credit…Carol M. Highsmith/Getty Images

Where we’re traveling

Today’s travel tip comes from Patricia Goodson, who recommends the town of Ferndale in Humboldt County:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

And before you go, some good news

The century-old diary that Christina Lalanne found in her San Francisco house tantalized her with the beginnings of a tale of two young Danish lovers, separated by different journeys to the United States and an unhappy marriage.

Eventually, The San Francisco Chronicle reports, they may have met again.

But the real love story here is one between a deeply rooted San Franciscan and her home.

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Alphabet start (3 letters).

Steven Moity, Mariel Wamsley and Soumya Karlamangla contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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