Orange County almost went for President Obama during the 2008 general election, but as Republican Party leaders look to swing independents back their way, they can count on a new bastion in Corona del Mar.
The Newport Harbor Republican Women celebrated the grand opening of their campaign headquarters at 3734 E. Coast Hwy. on Thursday.
For the three months leading up to the November election, the club is leasing half of the space recently vacated by John L. Blom Custom Photography.
"I'd like to show the rest of the state that we are a red county," said Christy La Barthe, the headquarters chairwoman and a club member.
As crews continued to remodel the building, the patio's exposed drywall and wooden ladders contrasted with the clean, freshly painted interior. Politicians delivered campaign speeches to a buzzing audience while a psychic reader watched on from a neighboring suite.
Attendees posed for a $5 photograph with a life-size cutout of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney while women sold lawn signs and bumper stickers.
Passersby sometimes drop in from Coast Highway, said club President Victoria Street. The commercial space has a large window filled with Romney-Ryan materials facing the highway.
"When we saw this opportunity, we just snapped it up," Street said.
Most of the club's focus this season will be on Romney's presidential campaign, but volunteers will also use the headquarters to organize for U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa). Emken and Mansoor attended the event.
The club members, who are paying for the commercial space with private donations, will use the room to organize precinct walks, place fundraising calls, and distribute yard signs, bumper stickers and other promotional pieces.
"The energy is so positive," La Barthe said. "People really want to be engaged."
Emken, a Danville autism activist, was the first politician to speak and ask for donations. She is looking to unseat Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
"This is a wave election," Emken said, hoping voters will repeat the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans recaptured the House majority.
Feinstein, who is running for her fourth full term, is well-funded in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 44% to 30%, with 21% of voters unaffiliated.
To rally volunteers for phone banking, Bill Christiansen, the former executive director of the Republican Party of Orange County, gave a fiery talk.
"We are an island of red and we are fighting off the enemy as much as we can," he said.