California-45: Mimi Walters

National Journal
Nov. 4, 2014, 7:41 p.m.

Born: May 14, 1962

Fam­ily: Mar­ried, Dav­id Wal­ters; four chil­dren

Re­li­gion: Cath­ol­ic

Edu­ca­tion: Uni­versity of Cali­for­nia (Los Angeles), B.A., 1984

Ca­reer: In­vest­ment ex­ec­ut­ive, 1988-present; sales rep­res­ent­at­ive/man­ager, 1985-88

Elec­ted Of­fice: Cali­for­nia Sen­ate, 2009-present; Cali­for­nia As­sembly, 2005-08; La­guna Niguel City Coun­cil/may­or, 1996-2004

GOP state Sen. Mimi Wal­ters de­feated Demo­crat Drew Leavens in Cali­for­nia’s heav­ily Re­pub­lic­an 45th Dis­trict to suc­ceed re­tir­ing GOP Rep. John Camp­bell. Tout­ing her long ex­per­i­ence in pub­lic of­fice, she ran on a pro-busi­ness, an­ti­tax plat­form that res­on­ated in the dis­trict, which cov­ers much of wealthy Or­ange County.

Wal­ters is the daugh­ter of a Mar­ine Corps cap­tain who later be­came a ma­jor in the Mar­ine Corps Re­serve. She worked as a stock­broker and then for sev­en years as an in­vest­ment ex­ec­ut­ive be­fore she won her first race in 1996 on the La­guna Niguel City Coun­cil. She went on to serve as La­guna Niguel may­or be­fore be­ing elec­ted to the state As­sembly in 2004 and the state Sen­ate in 2008. “When I first entered pub­lic ser­vice I firmly be­lieved, and still do, that our prosper­ity does not come from gov­ern­ment; it comes in spite of it,” she said.

Wal­ters has joined oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans in op­pos­ing many of the meas­ures backed by Cali­for­nia Gov. Jerry Brown and his fel­low Demo­crats. Those ini­ti­at­ives in­clude a 2012 hike on sales taxes and taxes on high-earners, and more re­cently, the gov­ernor’s plan to re­dir­ect $250 mil­lion from the state’s cap-and-trade pro­gram to high-speed rail. She also op­posed ef­forts to raise the min­im­um wage. On en­vir­on­ment­al and im­mig­ra­tion is­sues, by con­trast, she has staked out a more mod­er­ate ap­proach.

Un­der Cali­for­nia’s new re­dis­trict­ing plan, Wal­ters first com­peted in a “jungle primary” in Ju­ly, in which the top two vote-get­ters, re­gard­less of party af­fil­i­ation, ad­vanced to the gen­er­al elec­tion. Bet­ting that she would face stronger op­pos­i­tion from fel­low Re­pub­lic­an Greg Raths, a re­tired Mar­ine col­on­el, she bested the field by fo­cus­ing her at­tacks on him rather than on any Demo­crat. The tac­tic paid off, and she was left to face Leavens in a dis­trict where Re­pub­lic­ans hold a 15-per­cent­age-point re­gis­tra­tion ad­vant­age.

Un­like some oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans, Wal­ters’s as­so­ci­ation with the GOP es­tab­lish­ment has helped rather than hurt her. She began plan­ning her bid as soon as Camp­bell an­nounced his re­tire­ment last year, and her tight con­nec­tions among donors paid off as she entered the primary with a 2-to-1 fun­drais­ing edge over all of her com­pet­it­ors com­bined. After the primary, she pledged she would use her cash ad­vant­age to help those Re­pub­lic­ans fa­cing a tough­er fight in the gen­er­al elec­tion, and then use that polit­ic­al cap­it­al once elec­ted to Con­gress.

Helen Fessenden contributed to this article.
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