In Orange County, Republicans disappointed by party's showing

As the very young and the very old began to head for the exits of Orange County's biggest election night party, Republican political donors, strategists and candidates headed to the elevators.

In a wing of suites on the 16th floor of the Westin South Coast Plaza, several political action committees had rented rooms and thrown private parties for the local candidates they supported.

Local Republicans seemed to be faring better Monday night than their national counterparts, but the mood was still somber as returns came in. Travis Allen, a candidate in the 72nd Assembly District race, and U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of the newly redrawn 48th district, were both leading late Monday night. Allen's term would be his first; Rohrabacher's, his 13th.

"I guess we'll have to see the rest of the country fall and crumble the way California has before things change," Rohrabacher said, as he exited the party. "You can't go on like this and expect everything to work itself out."

In one room, members of the PAC called Atlas, their friends and spouses settled on plush couches in  numb silence to watch President Obama's victory speech. Some shook their heads in disbelief.

Atlas was founded by a group of conservatives who aged out of the Young Republicans, which limits membership to those younger than 40. Many members are businessmen in Orange County who favor smaller government and less taxation. PAC leadership said they donated nearly $200,000 to local candidates during the 2012 election.

"We haven't won California since 1988, so I think we knew this was a pipe dream," Atlas Chairman Lee Lowrey said.

The crowd spilled into the hallway, where clumps of young men in suits and neatly parted hair held drinks and several women wore bright red cocktail dresses, their hair curled into ringlets.

Some talk was derogatory toward Democrats, local and national. But much of the conversation was somber and reflective.

"I think we have to think about how we lost," said Doug Vogel, a political strategist supporting a slate of candidates for the Anaheim School Board. "This happened for a reason. And if we want to come back stronger, we have to figure out what that is."

This story was reported by Times Staff Writer Laura J. Nelson.

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