Rep. John Campbell (R)
California 48th District
Forty years ago, the area south of Santa Ana and the John Wayne Airport was open land, a vacant landscape of flat plains and low mountains, all beneath the 4,600-foot Trabuco Peak in the distance. This was the Irvine Ranch, purchased by Gold Rush merchant James Irvine from the Sepulveda and Yorba families and maintained as a ranch until the early 1970s, the last large plot of vacant land in metro Los Angeles. Ten miles along the Pacific Coast and 22 miles inland to the mountains, a traveler on the freeway could still get a sense of what the first American settlers to reach California saw. As Orange County grew up to the limits of the Irvine Ranch, the Irvine family was sitting on some immensely valuable land. In 1959, they donated a site for the University of California at Irvine, which has grown to more than 25,000 students. In the 1970s, they sold the rest to developers. The resulting city of Irvine was a planned community, with eight-lane parkways, huge office parks and shopping malls, and attractive subdivisions and condominiums. Irvine has attracted high-tech and high-growth businesses, highly educated and affluent people, and also Asian immigrants. Its population is 37% Asian, with enough Chinese to support a Chinese supermarket and a Chinese-language library.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Irvine is set amid a raft of affluent communities, except for low-income and 76% Hispanic Santa Ana. To the north is Tustin, an older town built on Irvine land. To the south is Newport Beach, one of California’s richest cities, which has resisted the rapid development of Irvine. Newport Harbor is chock-full of expensive boats, and nearby Balboa Island is filled with multimillion-dollar homes. To the east is Lake Forest; the name used to be El Toro, and some residents now complain that it has few lakes or forests. To the southeast on the ocean is Laguna Beach, with its art galleries and cute shops, and more conventionally affluent Dana Point. Inland are Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, and the Laguna Woods retirement community. The El Toro Marine Corps Air Station that closed in 1999 is being developed as the Great Park in Irvine, with 1,300 acres of parkland ringed by 2,400 acres of development, 3,600 homes, and 3 million square feet of commercial and industrial space.
The 48th Congressional District of California, entirely contained within Orange County, is centered geographically on the Irvine Ranch lands and includes all of these communities. Politically, this is a conservative area, and for a long time it was one of the most Republican districts in the United States. Since the 1990s, like most of metro Los Angeles, it has trended to the Democrats. In 2007, it was 17% Hispanic and 16% Asian. It is still Republican, but far from the most Republican district in the state. Republican George W. Bush won with 58% here in 2000 and 2004, but Democrat Barack Obama won the district by 2,500 votes in 2008, 49.3% to 48.6% for Republican John McCain.
Rep. John Campbell (R)
Elected: Dec. 2005, 2nd full term.
Born: July 19, 1955, Los Angeles .
Education: U.C.L.A., B.A. 1976, U. of S. CA, M.B.T., 1977.
Family: Married (Catherine); 2 children.
Elected office: CA Assembly, 2000-04; CA Senate, 2004-05.
Professional Career: Tax accountant, 1977-78; Auto dealership executive, 1978-2003.
The congressman from the 48th District is John Campbell, a Republican who won a special election in December 2005. He has deep roots in Southern California. His great-grandfather was a Republican member of the state Assembly in 1860, and his grandfather was the managing editor of the now-defunct Herald-Examiner, W.R. Hearst’s rival to the Los Angeles Times. Campbell’s father was an oil field geologist and investor who later edited the Herald-Examiner’s financial pages. John Campbell graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles and got a master’s degree in business taxation from the University of Southern California. A certified public accountant, he did a stint with Ernst & Young, one of the big accounting firms, and then joined an Orange County automobile dealership group as controller in 1978. Reviewing the company’s books, Campbell discovered that the company’s management had diverted $500,000 toward personal expenses. He alerted shareholders, including his father. The chief executive officer was fired, and Campbell was given the job. He later declared a no-haggling policy at each of Campbell Automotive’s car dealerships. “We want to be the Nordstrom of auto retailing,” he told the Orange County Register in 1989. In the 1990s, he sold off Campbell Automotive’s Mazda, Ford, and Nissan dealerships to focus on its remaining Saab franchises—and on politics. In 2000, Campbell won an Irvine-based seat in the California Assembly, and four years later was elected to the state Senate.
|John Campbell (R)||171,658||(56%)||($776,452)|
|Steve Young (D)||125,537||(41%)||($268,129)|
|Don Patterson (Lib)||11,507||(4%)|
|John Campbell (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%); 2005 (44%)
Campbell got his opportunity to run for Congress when President Bush selected Rep. Christopher Cox to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission in June 2005. Campbell was instantly the front-runner in this solidly Republican district. Also in the primary was Marilyn Brewer, a former state Assembly member who supported abortion rights and embryonic-stem-cell research, and drew support from the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership. Campbell was endorsed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he had worked closely with in Sacramento, and by the state and Orange County Republican parties. With 19 candidates running for the seat in the all-party October 4 special primary, Campbell finished first with 45%, well above Brewer’s 17%, to win the Republican nomination. Steve Young was the Democratic nominee after winning 9%. Jim Gilchrist, founder of the anti-illegal-immigrant Minuteman Project, finished third with 15% and was the nominee of the American Independent Party. In the campaign for the December 4 runoff, Gilchrist criticized Campbell for his votes in the Assembly, prompting Campbell to say that he made a mistake in 2001 when he voted to allow illegal immigrants to receive in-state college tuition. Gilchrist’s single-issue campaign caught Campbell off guard and turned the contest into a referendum on immigration. Campbell won, though with a surprisingly modest 44% to 28% for Democrat Young and 25% for Gilchrist. Nearly 13,000 more votes were cast in December than October, but Campbell picked up just 4,800 votes over his October performance; the bulk of the other votes went to Young and Gilchrist.
In the House, Campbell’s voting record is mostly conservative but more centrist on economic issues. He has seats on the Budget and Financial Services committees. He moved quickly into a leadership role among conservatives as chairman of the budget and spending task force of the Republican Study Committee. He led Republicans angry about Congress’s lack of spending restraint, offering a series of amendments designed to embarrass sponsors of questionable spending earmarks. Campbell rarely got many more than 100 votes, but made a point about wasteful spending. He started the Green Eyeshade blog on the Townhall.com conservative website to explain details of the federal budget. When he learned that Democrats planned to embarrass him by highlighting his support for a $2.5 million water project for his district, he withdrew his support for it. But he parted company with most fiscal conservatives in September 2008 when he backed the bailout of the financial industry, which he said was vital to rescue the economy. With that shift, he abandoned his bid to chair the conservative Republican Study Committee. But he remained an outspoken critic of “big spending.”
At home, Campbell has been re-elected easily.