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Politics

Meet the blue wave now representing Orange County in Congress

Clockwise from top left; Gil Cisneros stands in front of the Capitol during a week of orientation fo
Clockwise from top left: Gil Cisneros, Katie Porter, Harley Rouda, Alan Lowenthal, Lou Correa and Mike Levin.
(Associated Press; Los Angeles Times; Roll Call)

Long a bastion of Republican power, Orange County is now represented entirely by Democrats.

Four of the newest members defeated Republicans in November to secure their seats. They joined Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) who holds a seat that flipped to Democratic control in the mid-’90s, and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), one-third of whose constituents are O.C. residents.

Here’s a closer look at the six Democrats who now represent Orange County in Congress.

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O.C.'s blue wave: A periodic look at the six Democrats in Congress now representing the former GOP stronghold. »

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Rep. Gil Cisneros with aide Daphne Sigala, left, and his son Christopher.
(David Butow / For The Times)

Rep. Gil Cisneros

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(Priya Krishnakumar / Los Angeles Times Graphics)

Cisneros, 47, of Yorba Linda won $266 million in the Mega Millions lottery in 2010 and joins the ranks of the wealthiest members of Congress. With their winnings, Cisneros and his wife, Jacki, started a foundation to increase access to education for Latino students and veterans.

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A retired Naval officer, Cisneros was the first member of his family to graduate from college and wants to focus on healthcare, gun laws and immigration reform in Congress.

Cisneros serves on the Armed Services and the Veterans Affairs Committees and said he wants to focus on improving the transition between active military service and the VA.

“How can we improve that process to make it a smooth transition, and not so dependent upon the individual to go out and seek treatment?” Cisneros said.

He defeated Republican Young Kim to replace retiring Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton. His district spans Orange, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties.

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Katie Porter with volunteers at her first news conference after being declared the winner in the 45th Congressional District over Rep. Mimi Walters.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Katie Porter

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(Priya Krishnakumar / Los Angeles Times Graphics)

Porter, a UC Irvine law professor and consumer protection attorney, landed a spot on the coveted Financial Services Committee, which she had testified before repeatedly as an expert.

“I really see capitalism as the engine of opportunity in this country. Financial Services is about how you fuel that engine,” Porter said. “This feels like a place where I can be of immediate value and use, to not just the American people, but also to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

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In 2012, Porter was picked by then-Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris to monitor distribution of California’s share of a $25-billion national mortgage foreclosure settlement.

Porter, 45, of Irvine, is a single mother, a rarity in Congress, and she has pushed House leadership to implement more family-friendly policies.

She defeated Rep. Mimi Walters of Irvine with 52% of the vote to represent the 45th District in inland and southern Orange County, including Irvine.

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Rep. Lou Correa at Little People's Park in Anaheim.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Lou Correa

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(Priya Krishnakumar / Los Angeles Times Graphics)

Correa, 61, of Santa Ana was elected to a second term in November with 69.15% of the vote. His district has been represented by a Democrat since the mid-’90s.

Before heading to Congress, the former real estate broker served in the state Assembly for six years, the Orange County Board of Supervisors for two years and the state Senate for eight years. In his first term, Correa leveraged that political experience to pass several bills in a Republican-controlled Congress, a fairly unusual accomplishment for a freshman.

He serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. He said his goal is to improve immigration policy and make sure his district gets its fair share of federal tax dollars.

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“California, Orange County, my district — we’re donors,” Correa said. “We pay more to the feds then we get back. We’ve got to shift that around.”

The 46th District includes the heavily Latino area of Santa Ana, where Correa grew up, as well as the city of Orange and much of Anaheim.

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Rep. Alan Lowenthal in 2016.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Alan Lowenthal

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(Priya Krishnakumar / Los Angeles Times Graphics)

Lowenthal, 78, of Long Beach was reelected in November with 64.9% of the vote.

He was first elected to Congress in 2012 after serving two decades on the Long Beach City Council and in the state legislature. He is a psychologist and former professor.

Two-thirds of the 47th District’s population falls in Los Angeles County, with the remaining third in Orange County. Lowenthal serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, where he is chairman of the Energy Subcommittee.

Lowenthal said his goal for this Congress is to find common ground with Republicans on climate change, starting with increasing renewable resource use on federal lands.

“I’d like for us to come up with an energy policy that moves us to renewables and getting us off fossil fuel,” Lowenthal said. “I think if you can do that on federal lands, you can deal then much easier later on [with] the private sector.”

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Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) at a town hall meeting in February in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

Rep. Harley Rouda

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(Priya Krishnakumar / Los Angeles Times Graphics)

Rouda, a onetime Republican who ran as a Democrat, represents shifting Orange County politics.

Rouda, 57, of Laguna Beach was picked to be the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Environment Subcommittee chairman, an unusual honor for a freshman, and also serves on the House Transportation Committee.

“There’s an intersection between climate change and infrastructure where we can use infrastructure to help bring down the negative impacts of climate change,” Rouda said.

Rouda, a real estate investor, defeated the longest serving Republican in the delegation, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, with 53.55% of the vote. The affluent and increasingly diverse 48th District includes most of Orange County’s northern coast.

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Rep. Mike Levin speaks in Oceanside in January.
(Bill Wechter)

Rep. Mike Levin

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(Priya Krishnakumar / Los Angeles Times Graphics)

Levin, 40, of San Juan Capistrano is a former environmental lawyer and clean-energy advocate who has been active in local and state politics for years, but has not held an elected office before. He plans to focus on the environment and veterans issues.

Levin, whose district includes the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, was selected to be chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, a rare honor for a freshman member.

“We all agree on the need to serve veterans as well as they’ve served us. That isn’t a Republican or a Democratic principle. That’s who we are as Americans. We all agree on that. And my hope is that that’ll lead to a lot of bipartisan work in that committee,” Levin said.

Levin also serves on the Natural Resources Committee and the newly created Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Levin won by the largest margin of any new California member. He defeated Republican Diane Harkey with 56.42% of the vote to replace retiring Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista. The 49th District is split between Orange and San Diego counties.

Note to readers: Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier) represents a district that includes a sliver of Orange County, but it accounts for fewer than 2% of her constituents.

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