Thursday, February 5, 2015

An Ethnic Revolution in Orange County, California: It's Now Run by Asian Americans

Orange County, California, once the fabled bastion in California of conservative whites safely ensconced behind “The Orange Curtain,” witnessed an ethnic revolution on the 5 member Orange County Board of Supervisors. Two Asian American women were elected to the Board in the November 5, 2014 general election. A third Asian American, Andrew Do, was just certified as winning a special election for the open seat in the First District by 43 votes over Lou Correa, the termed –out State Senator who held the seat 8 years ago. Supervisor Do served as Chief of Staff to Janet Nguyen, who vacated the seat upon her election to the State Senate in November. The First District is one of the few Democratic electoral districts by registered voters in Orange County. It is centered in Santa Ana, the county seat which is 78.2% Hispanic. The Hispanic Democratic vote is balanced by the Republican Asian American vote in Little Saigon, which comprises the large Vietnamese populations of Garden Grove, Westminster, Fountain Valley, and Santa Ana. Asian Americans in Orange County tend to register as Republicans unlike Asian American voters elsewhere in America, who favor Democrats. The GOP received only about 27% of the Asian American vote nationally in 2012. Orange County is the nation’s sixth largest county by population with an estimated 3,114,363 residents in 2013. It is 42.6$ Caucasian, 34.2% Hispanic, and 19.2% Asian American. It is thus an ethnically diverse county with the exception of African Americans, who comprise only 2.1% of the population. It is unfair to consider all Caucasians, or Hispanics, or Asian Americans as “one people.” The Asian American census figures show 183,766 Vietnamese, 79,082 Chinese, 71,060 Filipino, 87,697 Korean, 32,276 Japanese, 40,732 Indian, as well as Bangladeshi, Cambodians, and Sri Lankan. Three Asian Americans, one Vietnamese, one Korean, and one Japanese, comprise the Orange County Board of Supervisors, but they comprise less than 1/5 of the County’s population. This is a political revolution in a diverse county. The Orange County change is ethnic – not political. All five supervisors are Republicans in this consistently conservative Republican county in California. Yet,the three were overwhelmingly elected because of who they are as a person rather than by ethnicity, Supervisor Michelle Park Steel won the Second District, which includes Newport Beach and other affluent communities. It is 81.7% white and only 8.3% Asian American. Yet Supervisor Steel, who was born in Korea, won the district. She raised $758,766 for her campaign, about 4½ times the amount of her opponent. She had a major advantage in the election. Her husband since 1981 is Shawn Steel, a power in the California Republican Party. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who carried the 5th District, is Japanese American. Mayor Steve Choi of Irvine was also born in Korea. Irvine is about 43% Asian America – not a majority. The African American Al Murray recently served as Mayor of Tustin, of which the African American population is 2.2%. Let us also note that Edwin Lee is Mayor of San Francisco and Jean Quan just completed a term as Mayor of Oakland. California has overcome its past racial prejudice to Asian immigrants and is increasingly voting for the person as opposed to the race or ethnicity. The elections were free of the racial slurs that would have appeared in the past.

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