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- - - - Mark Twain (Roughing It)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Battle of the Races: Asians vs. Latinos in Orange County

Republican Young Kim

Battle of the Races
Orange County's 65th Assembly District is 20% Latino and 20% Asian. The race sees a contest between a Latino Assemblywoman and an Asian-American Republican.

(Los Angeles Times)  -  Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, a first-term Democrat facing a tough reelection bid, stood in a Sizzler dining room one recent evening with a rallying cry for her supporters.

"Do not let others define our district for us," she urged members of a local Democratic club. "It's too simplistic to do the data and say, 'It's just a Republican stronghold.' "

Until recently, it was. And in one of the most closely watched legislative contests this year, Republicans hope to flip it back.

Changing demographics recently transformed solidly Republican terrain into swing territory. But although Democrats may have expanded their playing field, they could be hobbled by lackluster turnout at the polls next month.

As Democratic registration climbs in these districts, "the blessing is they're getting more voters that are going to be supporting Democratic candidates," said Paul Mitchell, vice president of the bipartisan firm Political Data Inc.

"The curse," he said, "is that more of those voters are younger and tend to have a lower turnout."

There are currently 55 Democrats in the Assembly, one more than needed for the two-thirds supermajority. That voting bloc is handy for passing tax increases or placing measures on the ballot without Republican votes.

The Orange County race is a tossup, according to the California Target Book, an almanac of state politics.

In 2012, Quirk-Silva notched an upset victory over a sitting Republican, buoyed by strong Democratic turnout for the presidential election.

Now she's up against Republican Young Kim, who served in the area for two decades as an aide to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton).

Orange County's 65th Assembly District is 37% Democrat, 36% Republican
and 27% independents and small political parties.

Kim is running on familiar GOP themes — decrying burdensome regulations on business and pledging to fend off any Democratic attempts to alter Proposition 13, the state's landmark property tax law. Quirk-Silva says she opposes any attempt to change the law.

A former teacher who also served on the Fullerton City Council, Quirk-Silva has emphasized local issues, namely her legislation for a new veterans cemetery in Orange County. She appeared this week with Gov. Jerry Brown at the cemetery's future site in Irvine.

Fundraising advantages typically go to the incumbent. But Kim has gone toe-to-toe with Quirk-Silva in the money race, collecting nearly $1.5 million to Quirk-Silva's $1.8 million.

New demographics are a potent undercurrent in this race to represent the 65th Assembly District. Kim, like 5% of the district, is Korean American. Asian Americans as a whole make up nearly 20%, according to Political Data.

Kim, noting that Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in North Orange County, says she has an advantage as "a candidate that looks like and talks like the district."

The same could be said of Quirk-Silva, who is Latino, as is about 20% of the district.

"There's no doubt — your grandfather's Orange County has changed," said Fred Smoller, professor of political science at Chapman University.

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