Posted on February 26, 2020

‘No Way Out’: Demographics Drive GOP Nosedive on West Coast

Andrew Selsky, Associated Press, February 26, 2020

In the early 1990s, the population of Bend was around 25,000 and leaned Republican. A lumber mill operated along the banks of the Deschutes River in Oregon’s high-desert country.

Today, the lumber mill is an REI outdoor recreation store. The population has quadrupled. And for the first time in memory, the number of registered Democrats in Deschutes County recently eclipsed the number of Republicans.

The transformation shows how demographic shifts and the GOP’s tack further to the right are helping push the party into a nosedive along the West Coast.

The last Republican presidential candidate that California went for was George H.W. Bush. For both Oregon and Washington, it was Ronald Reagan. Now, Republicans are struggling to hold seats in Congress, statehouses and city councils up and down the coast.

{snip} In November, none of the three states is apt to go for President Donald Trump, and there is little hope Republicans will claw back much ground in other contests.

Political districts have flipped in population centers, from San Diego in the south to Seattle in the north.

“There is no way out,” Chris Vance, a former Washington state Republican Party chairman and legislator, said in a telephone interview.

In San Diego, by the U.S.-Mexico border, each of the nine city council districts now has more registered Democrats than registered Republicans, including one that until recently leaned strongly Republican.

In 1980, Orange County, near Los Angeles, was 80% white and a GOP stronghold. Today, Orange County is mostly Hispanic and Asian, with many displeased by Republicans’ hard stance on immigration. In 2018, voters there dealt a stunning defeat to a two-term GOP congresswoman.

The California GOP wound up losing six other U.S. House seats that year, leading a former Republican leader in the state to declare: “The California Republican Party isn’t salvageable at this time.”

Democrats also hold the California governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats and almost complete control of the Legislature.


Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, among a line of Democratic governors dating back to 1985, faces no significant GOP challenge as he seeks a third term in November. Both of Washington’s U.S. senators are Democrats, and seven of its 10 U.S. House members belong to the party. Democrats hope to expand their majorities in the Legislature, where they hold a 28-21 edge in the Senate and a 57-41 advantage in the House.

And Democrats in Oregon — who already hold the governorship, both U.S. Senate seats and four of five U.S. House seats — wield supermajorities in the Legislature, and are gunning for more seats.


Some Republicans also formed a group, Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho. It is collecting signatures to make rural Oregon counties part of conservative Idaho.