Senator Mimi Walters has long been a fixture of politics in South County. Almost assured of victory, the state legislator is running for a seat in Congress left open by retiring John Campbell. The one-time-stockbroker appreciates the concept of risk. Observing her current campaign in the 45th district, I am convinced the virtue accounts for her consistency and a career of solid performances. Your typical work horse politician, Sen. Walters does not put her agenda on pause to comment on the issue of the day. The one recent exception being the historic drought in California; thus, it takes an act of God to break her attention.
Frankly, it would take a particularly severe act of God to keep Senator Walters from becoming Congresswoman Walters. A fact, assumed here in OC, and in Washington. Early in the race, Sen. Walters faced notable competition from Supervisor John Moorlach. A fixture in his own right, the termed-out Supervisor gained fame for predicting Orange County’s bankruptcy in the nineties. A root and branch conservative, Sup. Moorlach is an established taxpayer advocate.
Nevertheless, Sup. Moorlach was in a race that he could not win. Neither candidate actually lives in the 45th, which is legal as the representative need only reside in California. Sup. Moorlach, however, was fighting on Sen. Walters’ turf. Here is Moorlach’s 2nd district:
While anchored in coastal OC, the 2nd includes significant portions of the more urbanized central and north sections. Now here is the 45th congressional district:
Literally, the 2nd and 45th sit in opposite corners of the county; there is not a single overlapping jurisdiction. While the Supervisor is admired throughout Orange County, he would nonetheless be introducing himself to a majority of voters in the district.
In the securely conservative 45th, the winner in a typical (low-turnout) primary is chosen by highly educated, well-off, and elderly Republicans. Situated against the foothills, Sen. Walters has been courting these very voters for many years. Here is a map of her senate district, the 37th:
As you can see, the 45th lies almost entirely within Walters’ present home district. Along with the voters in her old South County assembly and senate districts, the Senator has located and convinced the 45th’s GOP base many times. Along-side her potent fundraising potential, the facts of the race were daunting for Sup. Moorlach. When Sen. Walters thwarted an endorsement from the California Republican Assembly (CRA) (in full disclosure I am a member), the writing was on the wall for Mr. Moorlach and, shorty thereafter, he gracefully exited the race.
CRA’s vote to not endorse Sup. Moorlach was close and seriously contested. The Senator’s victory reveals an increasingly important factor for GOP electors and power players: identity politics. Because of Sup. Moorlach’s position on, for example, 405 Toll Lanes, he was favored by many within the CRA, and among other grassroots groups, as a fiscal conservative, no corporate welfare, kind of Republican. (No pressure Madam Senator!) Moorlach came up short; however, and that is probably because of his sex. Like the conservative movement generally, CRA is concerned with growth, recruitment and youth. Endorsing a woman certainly doesn’t represent a change in the culture towards women, I mean this is 2014 for goodness sake, but it does counter the Democrat’s false ‘war on women’ narrative. Beyond sex, in close contests a candidate’s identity can boost turn-out and make the difference.
It is something of an irony that Sen. Walters would benefit from identity politics. While the heir apparent is in fact a woman, her legislative career does not reflect the thinking of a given sex. A review of her record shows an interest in property rights and spending issues. The mother of four is vice-chair of the Appropriations Committee and sits on other committees encompassing pension and budget issues. In Sacremento, she has been a voice of reason in a Democratic dominated legislature. In doing so, she provided a powerful critique of Governor Brown’s state-run retirement pension plan for private-sector workers.
Around the time of her CRA endorsement, an article highlighting her, womanness, predicted a Congresswoman Walters would be a rising star within the GOP. I have read more to that effect since that time. And being so young, her possibilities do seem endless. I agree with the fan-fair, but with respect to her rise, identity was more incidental than consequential. This is good news because it is not as if all Congress needs to function is a few more females in the ranks. No, Washington needs fiscally-minded members to move the ball forward on entitlement reform. To that end, Congresswoman Walters will be a celebrated addition to that body. Ignoring all frills, she will hold the line on spending and regulations like… a… rock.