National News

How Orange County Foiled Kevin McCarthy’s Plans

Posted November 19, 2018 2:41 p.m. EST

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, had hoped to become the House speaker next year. Instead, McCarthy, R-Calif., will be returning as the minority leader after Democrats seized control of the House.

No small part of the reason for this is that his 14-member California congressional delegation took a shellacking: Democrats picked up six Republican-held seats, out of seven on their target list. The latest Republican setback came Saturday, when The Associated Press declared that Gil Cisneros, a Democrat, had beaten Young Kim, a Republican.

McCarthy tried to avoid this, directing money to endangered candidates and engineering a voter initiative to repeal the state’s gas tax in a move to draw more Republicans to the polls.

But a big factor in the wipeout may be that McCarthy forced members of his delegation to, if you will, walk the plank on the Republican tax bill.

Whatever its other merits, the legislation proved costly for many California homeowners by capping the deduction for state and local taxes, which are famously high in California. Only two members of the California Republican delegation — Dana Rohrabacher and Darrell Issa, both of whom represent parts of Orange County — voted against the tax bill. Issa did not run again (he was replaced by a Democrat). Rohrabacher ran and lost.

Democratic candidates like Katie Porter, who defeated Rep. Mimi Walters, an Orange County Republican, said she reminded voters at every turn that Walters had supported the tax bill.

“It’s a huge issue in the district,” Porter said over lunch a few days before Election Day. “She’s blown a $1.9 trillion hole in the deficit. People are very concerned about the cuts in Social Security and Medicare that that is going to prompt.”

Drew Godinich, a strategist for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said candidates like Porter were pressed to seize on the tax bill in speeches, advertisements and debates. They portrayed it as a Republican giveaway to corporations that would lead to cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

“Can’t underline how much that backfired on them here,” Godinich said.