California 43rd District
The gateway to the Los Angeles Basin for decades was San Bernardino. Passengers on the Santa Fe Railroad and motorists on U.S. 66 traveled from the hot and dusty desert, through the twisting, windy Cajon Pass, and wound up in the green, tree-lined Los Angeles Basin. This was an agricultural zone until World War II, when Henry J. Kaiser built the West Coast’s first major steel mill between the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific rail lines in Fontana, just west of San Bernardino. Today, these lands have largely filled up. The Inland Empire, as it is called, may be where the smog piles up against the mountains, but it also has some of the lowest real estate prices in the Los Angeles Basin and an energetic small-business economy. Business growth has been spurred by huge distribution and warehouse centers that service overseas cargo from the Long Beach port. Within 26 miles of San Bernardino, there are more than 15 Wal-Marts. The area’s farmlands and dairy pastures have been reduced substantially, the land sold to developers. From 1990 to 2005, jobs in the county grew from 408,000 to 643,000. But the recession hit hard and early in the Inland Empire, with home foreclosures among the highest in the nation in 2007 and new-home sales in the area down by nearly 60% in 2008.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 43rd Congressional District of California includes most of San Bernardino and Colton and the towns running west—Rialto, Ontario, and Fontana, where many new businesses have supplanted the steel mill that was closed in 1994 and reassembled in China. San Bernardino’s economy turned downward after the closure of Norton Air Force Base and the Santa Fe rail repair yard. But the base has been redeveloped as San Bernardino’s airport, the city has built a new baseball stadium, and Northrop Grumman has opened a Missile Engineering Center. Politically this area—and San Bernardino County in general—trended Republican in the 1980s. But as the Latino population grew—the district was 66% Hispanic in 2007—it trended Democratic. Barack Obama’s 68% in the 43rd District was his second-best Southern California district outside Los Angeles.