California 47th District
When Walt Disney began planning Disneyland in the late 1940s, he did not have to drive far from downtown Los Angeles before finding agricultural land. Dairy farms and orange groves covered most of southeast Los Angeles County and adjacent Orange County, which had only 216,000 people in 1950. As Disneyland opened there in 1955 and became a vast success, the area around it—a mass of flatland surrounded by mountains and sea—found itself directly in the path of the most explosively growing metropolitan area in the United States. Now, with 3 million people, Orange County is the nation’s fifth-largest county, just a bit ahead of San Diego County.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Just as Orange County was once transformed by newcomers from Los Angeles County and the Midwest, so it is again being transformed by immigrants, from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, and from Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, and other parts of East Asia. By 2007, the county was 33% Hispanic and 16% Asian. The county seat of Santa Ana is a major arrival point for immigrants from Mexico, and is 80% Hispanic. Others immigrants have moved farther out, like so many Southern Californians before them, working hard jobs, commuting on freeways, and living in stucco subdivisions. There are concentrations in various places—Latinos in Santa Ana and much of Anaheim; Vietnamese in Westminster and Garden Grove, who constitute the largest Vietnamese community in the nation—but many of these new Californians are scattered throughout the county. These demographic changes have made for some political wobble. Until the mid-1990s, Asians were split between the parties, and few Latinos were registered to vote. After the 1994 approval of Proposition 187, which sought to deny most social services to illegal immigrants, many more Latinos began voting, and voting mostly Democratic. Asian voters were less predictable.
The 47th Congressional District of California is the geographic heart of Orange County. About half its people live in Santa Ana. The district includes most of Garden Grove and Anaheim and many Orange County landmarks—Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Disneyland, and Disney’s California Adventure. The district's population in 2007 was 69% Hispanic and 15% Asian, primarily Vietnamese. This core area has always been the most Democratic part of Orange County. But it is not overwhelmingly Democratic like most majority-Hispanic districts in Los Angeles County. In 2003, the district voted 62% to recall Democratic Governor Gray Davis. Republican President George W. Bush won the district in 2004, but by only 50%-49% over Democrat John Kerry. In 2008, Barack Obama returned the district to the Democrats—at least, for now—by winning over Republican John McCain 60%-38%.