Democratic club aims for change in Republican town

They know it'll be a challenge, but the Costa Mesa Democratic Club wants to paint a red town blue.

More than 180 people came to the club's kickoff party Tuesday night at Creative Outlet Studios, a Placentia Avenue facility that will serve as the club's meeting space.

The group's charter members are hoping to raise money, build awareness and put more Democrats in Costa Mesa political positions. All five City Council seats, as well as the state and federal offices that represent the city in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., are held by Republicans.

Organizers said the new club will primarily focus on city issues, but may also touch upon statewide and national topics as well. Any registered Democrat in Orange County can join.

"We noticed that there wasn't a lot of Democratic organization in the town," said Vice President Caroline McNabb, a 15-year Costa Mesa resident. "So we wanted to get something together where we could all come together and be organized, in order to get things done with a more Democratic focus."

With 19,000 registered Republicans in Costa Mesa, club leaders acknowledged that they're outnumbered.

They said the latest Orange County Registrar of Voters data show nearly 15,000 Democrats citywide and about 12,000 independents.

Henry Vandermeir, chairman of the Democratic Party of Orange County, said with new outreach efforts in place, the gap between the two major political parties can be made smaller.

"It's a perfect opportunity to make some inroads here in Costa Mesa," he said. "This is something that we need to get everybody organized, fired up and more involved in the process of what's going on."

The Ladera Ranch resident, who was elected chairman in January, compared the endeavor to a snowball.

"You just give it a little roll, and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger," Vandermeir said. "People start paying attention and they realize, 'Man, maybe things aren't the way they should be.'"

Katherine Reedy, chairwoman of the Orange County Young Democrats, said it's "about time for this club here."

"It's been such an active city in terms of elections in the last few years," she said.

Reedy, a Newport Beach resident, said her organization is also looking to add a long-term, sustainable chapter at Orange Coast College, with a focus on the 2014 political season.

"The club building has to take place so we're ready for the elections," she said.

Greg Ridge, the club's secretary, also said it was high time for a Democratic club in Costa Mesa, and that the club is the first of its kind that he's seen in his city.

In past years, he couldn't find Democrats in a Republican-majority Costa Mesa, he said. That isn't the case anymore.

"Over the last couple of years, we've found more and more and more," Ridge said. "The networks have just kind of come together. We are here, almost 15,000 of us."

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