Born: May 14, 1962
Family: Married, David Walters; four children
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.