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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

Slingshot: Inside OC's Surprising Presidential Race Results!

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

For the second straight presidential election, Orange County ditched its longtime Republican reputation by turning blue. Hillary Clinton claimed these lands in 2016, a first for a Democrat at the top of the ticket since the days FDR bested some loser named Alf Landon. She beat Trump by about 5 percentage points.

See, that infamous OC Weekly donkey cover in 2016 wasn't totally wrong!

This time around, Biden continued the trend by claiming an outright majority with 53.5 percent of the vote, bettering Trump by nine percentage points. Where the president-elect gained his boosts might be surprising. Biden flipped several South OC cities in his favor while making gains on Trump along the conservative coastlands, even Huntington Beach! 

It's not all bad news for the outgoing president. Little Saigon backed him bigly this time. Santa Ana, a sanctuary city, remained the blue capital of OC, but somehow saw Trump enjoy a 13.7-point swing in the vote as Biden underperformed. 

Yes, you read that right! 

The fascinating data behind such revelations was crunched by Rob Pyers, research director of the non-partisan California Target Book. OC's vote breakdown even left him floored on Twitter, so let's have a closer look. I promise I won't John King ya!  

South OC Turns Blue

Where does South OC begin? The Slingshot! likes to think the county's unofficial Mason-Dixon line is anything south of Jamboree Road. For years, bigoted city council members and racist taunts at local high school sporting events seemed to confirm as much. But now there's new election data to consider. 

Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest and Mission Viejo all turned away from Trump in 2020. Mission Viejo, which solidly voted MAGA just four years ago, had a dramatic 8-point swing in Biden's favor. Rancho Santa Margarita and San Juan Capistrano remined Trump country, but the president even underperformed in those cities this time. 

Latinos for Trump?

What happened in SanTana?

It's no secret that Latinos loved the Clintons, but after four years of incessant xenophobia, how could Trump experience a 13.7-point swing in the Golden City? Biden did better than Barack Obama in 2008 and almost as good as his running mate in 2012. Clinton set a high standard in SanTana four years ago when she crushed Trump, 73.7 percent to 20.9 percent. Biden fell short of Clinton's mark by five percentage points and Trump overperformed by boosting his share of the vote to 29.4 percent. 

Maybe SanTaneros can put this one on Ceci Iglesias' right-wing evangelical mayoral campaign? The Trump-loving recalled councilwoman finished just a few hundred votes shy of second place. But a more likely booster was the Viet vote. Taking a closer look, Trump actually won two precincts in District 1, a more Vietnamese populated area of SanTana that borders Garden Grove. Biden's victories in the district's surrounding precincts only turned the faintest baby blue while the center of the city stained the electoral map with a bold shade of navy.

Trump saw an even bigger 17.5-point swing in Stanton, but cities with sizable Latino populations are more complex. Anaheim saw a slight dip for Biden while Placentia came out with a bigger boost for the president-elect. GuadaLaHabra? Biden outperformed Clinton!

Big Swings in Little Saigon

Westminster has flip-flopped the past four presidential election cycles. It came out strong for Clinton in 2016 before a big 24-point swing delivered the city soundly into Trump's tiny hands this year. Garden Grove barely withstood a 21.3-point MAGA swing to remain Biden blue. Fountain Valley eked out a Clinton victory in 2016 only to have a small swing turn the city back to Trump this time around.

The simple answer? Trump's rantings against the "radical left" and badgering of Biden as a Trojan Horse for socialism played well despite Little Saigon having seen youthful, pro-immigrant protests spurred by the administration's deportations that didn't spare the Vietnamese community. 

Make HB (Almost) Sane Again

Huntington Beach may've embarrassingly elected former MMA champ Tito Ortiz to city council on a wannabe Trump campaign to "Make Huntington Beach Safe Again." But voters also delivered two solid Democrats in Dan Kalmick and Natalie Moser. The outcome isn't altogether head-scratching when looking at how the presidential race played out. For all the anti-lockdown protests and Trump rallies at Pier Plaza, the president didn't blow out Biden in HB. Instead, Biden enjoyed a 3.5-point swing in closing the gap by roughly 3 percentage points. 

Elsewhere along the coast, the president won Newport Beach, San Clemente and Dana Point but slightly underperformed in the wake of bigger Biden boosts. 

Brea goes Biden? 

In all, Trump only won 10 cities in OC. He owes his staunchest support to northern inland enclaves. But even Villa Park and Yorba Linda saw MAGA meltdowns. Biden gained support in both cities, earning a 9.71-point swing in Villa Park alone. Trump comfortably carried Yorba Linda as well, but not without a 6.8-point swing in favor of the president-elect.

Brea did both cities one better by flipping entirely for Biden on account of a 6.7-point swing. A Thin Blue Line flag may fly above downtown Brea, but a thin blue margin delivered the city to the Democrats.

A former Sundown Town voting for a ticket with the nation's first Black woman as Vice President-elect? Now, that's progress! 

- Gabriel San Román

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Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina

Mouse Muckraker

What did the occupation of Alcatraz and Disney's Pocahontas share in common?  Russell Means. 

Back in the day, the storied Oglala Sioux activist joined other Indigenous activists on Alcatraz island; the occupation, which began on November 20, 1969, lasted for 19 months. As a leader of the American Indian Movement, Means later organized a protest encampment on Mount Rushmore and participated in a 71-day siege at the Wounded Knee Reservation in the early 1970s.

Wasichus faced a fierce Indigenous adversary in Means.

But by the 1990s, Means found himself occupying the silver screen, debuting in the film adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans. "I haven't abandoned the movement for Hollywood," Means told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. "I've just added Hollywood to the movement." 

His next role came as a voice actor in Pocahontas, playing the part of Chief Powhatan in the Disney animated film that debuted 25 years ago. 

"My daughter speaks with the wisdom beyond her years," says Means as Powhatan, during a key scene. "From this day forward, if there is to be more killing, it will not start with me."  

American Indian Studies scholar James Stripes coined a new term inspired by Means, the movie star: Actorvism. 

Of course, his foray into Hollywood came with detractors who saw it as another limelight stunt, much like his pairing on the Libertarian Party's presidential ticket with Hustler's Larry Flynt in 1984. Pocahontas, itself, faced intense criticism from the Powhatan Nation.

When asked for comment, Means expressed earlier problems with the script, but ultimately defended it. "The Eurocentric males are admitting why they came here—to kill Indians and to rob and pillage," he said. "That’s never been done before. This is also the first time, other than on Northern Exposure, that a human face has been put on an Indian female."

Means passed away in 2012. Even though Pocahontas turns 25 this year, it's unlikely that the film will ever gets a live-action remake. 

By the Byline

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, domestic violence advocates feared the worst. But even before stay-at-home orders, Santa Ana held the unfortunate distinction of being an epicenter in the state for such incidents. 

With that in mind, my latest Times OC feature is on the Corbin Center and how it has responded to the shadow pandemic of domestic violence. Interestingly enough, Santa Ana Police Department data shows less reports overall than this time last year, but that may not tell the full tale.

Workers on the frontline, like Ruby Godinez, share how the number of domestic violence victims and survivors has overwhelmed the Corbin Center. But with determination, it continues to make a difference in the lives of those it services in these unprecedented times. 

Lead photo: Democratic Party of OC chair Ada Briceño celebrates a Biden win with fellow Dems / Courtesy DPOC

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