Republican losses show Inland Empire’s political shift – latimes.com
Stirred by a decade of astronomical growth, economic heartache and the rising political influence of Latinos, the Inland Empire proved treacherous territory last week for a Republican Party that just a decade ago considered it the new GOP frontier.
Voters in Riverside and San Bernardino counties on Tuesday elected three Democrats to Congress — two Latinos and a gay Asian American — after having sent only two Democrats to Washington in the last four decades.
Before the election, Republicans represented the city of Riverside in Congress, the state Senate and the Assembly. On Tuesday, Democrats took all three seats.
The rumblings of an impending seismic shift in Inland Empire politics have been heard for years, with pressure slowly building as the GOP’s share of voters declined. California’s new political boundaries, crafted last year, allowed pent-up Democratic power to push to the surface and reshape a political landscape that’s now more evenly divided. Contests will be much harder to predict.
“The Inland Empire was the third bastion for the GOP after Orange County and San Diego,” said Shaun Bowler, a political scientist from UC Riverside. “That’s not true anymore, which is a worry for the Republican Party. They’ve got to work harder than they have in the past.”
Tuesday’s election results showed that the GOP is far from dead, however, especially in areas such as Temecula, Corona and the high desert. And a conservative streak still runs through the region’s electorate.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s $6-billion-a-year tax initiative, Proposition 30, won statewide but lost in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won Riverside County. San Bernardino voters sided with President Obama, but by only 5 percentage points, compared with Obama’s 20-point victory statewide.
In 2010, voters in both counties favored Republican Meg Whitman over Brown in the gubernatorial race and Republican Carly Fiorina over Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) for the U.S. Senate. Most of the Inland Empire still is represented by Republicans in Congress.