California: Forty-Sixth District|
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R)
Last Updated July 8, 2003
In the 1950s, when the Beach Boys were at Hawthorne High School, surfers would drive far down the coast to the vast expanse of Huntington Beach in Orange County to catch a wave. This was empty country then, vegetable fields and orange groves, with nary a freeway or shopping center in sight. Today a long stretch of the beach itself is eerily empty, with swampland across the highway where surfers' pickups are parked, but the rest of Orange County is pretty much filled in. Huntington Beach is a city of 190,000, a mixture of family subdivisions and garden apartments and home of the International Surfing Museum. To the north is Westminster, the center of the nation's largest Vietnamese-American community, with miles of malls where all the shops have Vietnamese names and the area has its own Vietnamese-language daily newspaper. Southeast along San Diego Freeway is Fountain Valley, the central focus of many Asian-owned high-tech businesses, an engine of Southern California growth. Near the coast is Costa Mesa, site of South Coast Plaza's luxury stores. Out on the beach in Huntington Beach you can see the curving coastline to the west, past the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach to where the mountains of the seismically active and economically upscale Palos Verdes Peninsula rise above the water.
The 46th Congressional District includes all this beachfront plus the Long Beach Harbor area and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It also includes territory inland: the eastern end of Long Beach and next-door Seal Beach, areas settled by many retirees, most of Westminster, all of Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa, the southwest corner of Santa Ana and a tiny slice of Los Angeles. Over most of the distance the eastern part of the district is connected to the Palos Verdes Peninsula by just a thin strip of beach or the port area. Politically, the two ends of the district connected by this narrow corridor are solidly Republican. The most competitive areas are in Long Beach and Westminster. But the Vietnamese here are mostly conservative, angry at America--not for going into Vietnam but for leaving it. This is no longer the monoracial Orange County of the 1960s: the district's population is 17% Hispanic and 15% Asian.
The congressman from the 46th District is Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican first elected in 1988. Rohrabacher calls himself a surfer Republican and sports an American flag surfboard. He grew up in southern California, went to college and experimented with drugs, and once had a folk band called the Goldwaters. He was a press aide in the 1976 and 1980 Reagan presidential campaigns, wrote editorials for the Orange County Register and was a speechwriter in the Reagan White House. He returned to Southern California in 1988 when Long Beach-based Congressman Dan Lungren decided not to run again (Lungren was elected attorney general in 1990 but lost for governor in 1998). Rohrabacher, with fundraising help from Oliver North, won the primary with 35% of the vote, to 22% for an Orange County supervisor and 20% for Steve Horn, who later represented a Long Beach-based district from 1992 to 2002. After redistricting in 1992, Rohrabacher tussled with Robert Dornan and won, running in this heavily Republican district while Dornan ran and later lost in the marginal district inland.
A self-styled free spirit, Rohrabacher likes to make waves in the House. His Web site once featured the motto: "Fighting for freedom and having fun." His voting record can be unpredictable, especially on cultural issues. That helps to explain why he remains assigned to second-level committees, but he has made the most of his opportunities. As chairman of the Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, he worked for the single-stage-to-orbit vehicle. After the Columbia disaster in February 2003, he quickly noted that he had raised questions about the safety of the aging space shuttle. He strongly opposes illegal immigration, which he says is "going to bankrupt America," and he sharply criticized as "a betrayal of American workers" the policy of giving 600,000 skilled foreign workers temporary visas in the United States.
Rohrabacher has often, but not always, supported restrictions on trade. Opposition to international trade has been a frequent theme. He has been a long-time critic of China's rulers and strongly opposed PNTR. In 2001, the House soundly defeated his attempts to block expanded trade with China and Vietnam. Despite the Bush administration's criticism that it would violate the peace treaty, he won House passage of his amendment to allow World War II prisoners of war to sue Japanese companies for enslaving them. In July 2002, after a lengthy delay while he paced the House floor, he cast one of the final votes that secured the passage by one vote of trade promotion authority. Soon after the September 11 attacks, Rohrabacher, who worked closely with Afghan rebels when he was a White House aide, met the exiled King of Afghanistan in Rome, encouraged him to return to Kabul and promised that the United States would oust the Taliban and help rebuild Afghanistan. He visited liberated Afghanistan in April 2002 and complained that the Pentagon imposed too many limits on his visit. This was not his first visit to the war-torn country. In November 1988, he traveled with a mujahedeen militia unit for one week; "Half of our group was napalmed," he says. With Barney Frank, he unsuccessfully sought to change the House rule that restricts members from discussing or characterizing actions in the Senate.
Rohrabacher has been routinely reelected by wide margins. The 2001 redistricting removed territory in Orange County, including very affluent and Republican Newport Beach, and added Long Beach and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the latter just as affluent but not quite so Republican. In 2002 his Democratic opponent was Gerrie Schipske, a nurse-practitioner and attorney who lost to Republican Steve Horn in 2000 in the old 38th District by only 48%-47%. But this was a much less Democratic district; Schipske raised only one-third as much money as in 2000, and Rohrabacher won 62%-35%.
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202-225-2415; Fax: 202-225-0145; Web site: www.house.gov/rohrabacher
- International Relations (9th of 26 R): Asia & the Pacific; International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights.
- Science (5th of 25 R): Research; Space & Aeronautics (Chmn.).
|Group Ratings (More Info)|
|National Journal Ratings
For National Journal's complete 2002 Vote Ratings, as well as previous ratings dating back to 1995, please click here.|
Key Votes Of The 107th Congress
|1. Approve Bush Tax Cuts
|2. Limit Patients' Bill of Rights
|3. Campaign Finance Reform
|4. Ban ANWR Development
|5. Faith-Based Charities
|6. Bar Gays in the Boy Scouts
| 7. Ban Partial-Birth Abortion
| 8. Arm Commercial Pilots
| 9. Trade Promotion Authority
|10. Bar Funds for Intl. Court
|11. Authorize Force in Iraq
|12. Deny Home. Sec. Dept. Union
||Dana Rohrabacher (R)
|Gerrie Schipske (D)
|Keith Gann (Lib)
||Dana Rohrabacher (R)
||Dana Rohrabacher (R)
|Ted Crisell (D)
|Don Hull (Lib)
Prior winning percentages:
1998 (59%); 1996 (61%); 1994 (69%); 1992 (55%); 1990 (59%); 1988 (64%)
For 1992 and 1996 presidential results in the Forty-Sixth District, please see the Almanac 2000 online. Please note that these older returns reflect district lines as they existed prior to 2002 redistricting.
- Cook Partisan Voting Index: R + 7
- District Size: 825 square miles
- Population in 2000: 639,088; 99.9% urban; 0.1% rural
- Median Household Income: $61,567; 7.8% are below the poverty line
- Occupation: 15.4% blue collar; 72.7% white collar; 11.9% gray collar; 11.3% military veterans
- Race/Ethnic Origin:
0.3% Amer. Indian,
2.6% Two+ races,
16.9% Hispanic origin
- Click here for statewide demographic data.
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