The Republican Party is aware that it must grow or die. That includes the most Republican County in America, California‚??s Orange County. During the Reagan era, the OC was famous for turning out massive majorities for Reagan as Governor and later for President.
Since then, Republican registration has declined from 60% to less than 50%. Yet, the OC continues to grow economically with a huge Asian American infusion of successful small businesses and professionals. These new Americans tend to be well-educated and personally successful with good jobs. ¬†Most are new to the American political process.
Nearly 20%¬†of residents in Orange County are Asian Americans. Yet, there is not a single Asian American elected to a partisan office. However, that is about to change.
Notably, the young and aggressive Neel Kashkari, the Republican nominee for governor, is running a guerilla campaign against the fossil, Gov. Jerry Brown. ¬†Neel depends for help on California‚??s 500,000-strong wealthy Indian American population.
Moreover, Orange County has four attractive candidates running for important political posts. All four of these candidates are Asian American women who immigrated legally and have spent years developing leadership skills in their local communities. All four are conservative. Their emergence as a new, serious political force toward changing the GOP stereotype.
Ling Ling Chang is the Mayor of Diamond Bar and a first generation Taiwanese-American. After winning a hard-fought primary campaign against a quality Republican candidate, another Taiwanese-American, Phillip Chang, Ling Ling emerged to face an unknown white male Democrat this November.¬† This largely Republican ‚??minority majority‚?Ě Assembly district is about to elect its first female Taiwanese-American. ¬†If she is successfully re-elected, Ling Ling could hold office until 2026.
Young Kim worked as a District Representative for the popular Congressman Ed Royce (Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee), serving the same communities in which she is now running.¬† Her opponent, an obnoxious Democrat bully, Sharon Quirk-Silva, was a last-minute surprise win in 2012 during the Obama wave. ¬†$700,000 in union funds helped to defeat the Republican incumbent when few were paying attention.¬† Democrats have not won in the City of Fullerton in perhaps more than 100 years. Republican leaders are intent on bringing this district back to the Republican caucus. The fact that 25%¬†of the citizens are Asian Americans is a big plus for Kim. And, the fact that nearly 50% of those Asians are Korean Americans helps make Kim‚??s campaign, a national issue in the Korean American press.
Janet Nguyen is the central Orange County Supervisor, who replaced a Hispanic Supervisor 6 years ago.¬† She now faces union candidate and¬†ex-Assemblyman Jose Solorio.¬† Pundits expect this race to cost over $12,000,000 including all the independent expenditures. That includes $8,000,000 from unions for Solorio and $4,000,000 for Janet. Conservatives understand that, in order to break the two-thirds super majority in the California Senate and return some balance to the State Legislature, this open seat race is crucial. Janet, who fled Vietnam when¬†very young on a wooden boat,¬†is charismatic and tough. She is engaging the huge Vietnamese community (about 20% of registered voters in the district) for a historic turnout.¬† Janet currently represents the most Democratic part of the new California state senate seat of some 600,000 constituents.
Finally, my wife, Michelle Park Steel, is running for the Orange County Board of¬†Supervisors. The district runs along the coast, including Newport Beach. Of the five supervisorial districts, this one¬†has the fewest Asian Americans. Given her job as the top Republican in California, (she is the Vice Chair of the Board of Equalization, California‚??s tax authority), she is well known.¬† Michelle currently represents an unbelievable 9,000,000 constituents — 25 percent of the California¬†population, including all of Orange County. She is running against an unknown white male, and earned 47.7 percent of the vote in a four-way Primary.
Popular CRP State chairman and former Senate Republican Leader,¬†Jim Brulte,¬†is known for saying that ‚??the candidate who most looks like, sounds like, and has the most shared experiences of the majority of voters tends to win.‚?Ě
Brulte‚??s prediction may be proven this November.¬† Should the four Asian women win, the Party‚??s image and look will immediately change for the better, demonstrating that the party is evolving and growing to fully incorporate California‚??s 12 percent Asian American population. This will restore¬†Republicans as a serious political force in California.
Shawn Steel is California National Committeeman of the Republican National Committee.