Suburban blues: Where Democrats have gained most in California

Democrats have made their largest California gains in the suburbs (Image via iStock)

Republicans are in rough shape in California, still trailing in third place behind not just Democrats but also those with no party. The GOP gained a bit on independents this summer, but primarily because more independents were re-registering as Dems.

Also not a new story: The election of President Donald Trump and an increasingly diverse American suburbia have not mixed well.

Remember the “blue wave” of the 2018 midterms, when Democrats nabbed more congressional seats nationwide than any election since 1975?

It was a dramatic expression of a historic realignment of our politics:

  • Whiter, rural, less educated districts have shifted ever more reliably into the GOP column
  • Suburbs — once the Republican Party’s base — have cooled on the GOP brand

Your average suburban voter has clearly soured on President Trump. But the definition of  “average suburban voter” has changed over the last two decades, as the suburbs swelled. Much of that population growth has been driven by immigrants and lower-income migrants from nearby cities.

The electoral flipping of the suburbs has been particularly dramatic in Southern California’s inland regions.

The most dramatic example: California’s 60th Assembly district, centered around the City of Corona in the western Inland Empire. When Republican Eric Linder won the seat six years ago by 23 percentage points, Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 5 points.

But in 2016, the district swung. Democrats now topped Republicans — and voters replaced Linder with the current Democratic Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes. At last count, district Democrats hold at 11 percentage point lead over Republicans.

The trend away from the GOP may have been supercharged by the state’s housing crunch as younger people, renters, Black and brown Californians — in other words, the Democratic Party’s base — have fled inland seeking cheaper shelter.

In nearly every cranny of California, Democrats have gained ground relative to the GOP. That’s mostly because the GOP has collapsed.

And those places that have swung most violently away from the GOP?

Those are the suburbs. And no surprise that many of the swingingest districts are also some of the most competitive this year.

Via the Post It, CalMatters political reporter Ben Christopher shares frequent updates from the (socially distanced) 2020 campaign trail.

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