California Republican concedes defeat in race she said months ago wasn't even competitive
On Friday, a little more than a week after she launched the briefest of campaigns to head the NRCC, California GOP Rep. Mimi Walters conceded defeat to Democrat Katie Porter in the election for the state’s 45th Congressional District. Walters’ abortive bid to lead the GOP’s House campaign arm was the last, but far from the only, example of how little she understood how much electoral danger she was in—a danger that crescendoed after Election Day.
Walters may have been lured into a false sense of security because, until this year, she was accustomed to easily beating Democrats in Orange County, which since time immemorial had been the citadel of California conservatism. Walters was elected to the state legislature four times from 2004 to 2012 and never took less than 57 percent of the vote. Even in 2010, when she lost a statewide race for treasurer by a wide 56-36 margin, she carried Orange County 52-41. In 2014, Walters entered the race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. John Campbell in the 45th District, which had backed Mitt Romney 55-43 two years earlier at the same time that Campbell was defeating Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang 58-42. Democrats didn’t seriously contest the seat when Walters sought it, and predictably, she had no trouble winning.
It was a similar story in 2016 when Walters beat another little-known Democrat 59-41. However, that victory came as Walters’ seat, like Orange County as a whole, was rejecting Donald Trump. But even though Hillary Clinton became the first Democratic candidate for president to win Orange County since FDR—and in so doing carried the 45th District 50-44—Walters continued to act like she was still representing a solidly Republican seat. She most notably supported Trumpcare and voted for the GOP’s tax bill, even though suburban seats like hers stood to suffer from it.
With 2016’s impact on Orange County in mind, Democrats were determined that 2018 would be different. A number of Democrats, including Porter, jumped in to challenge Walters and raised credible sums of money. However, Walters just didn’t seem to understand that she was in for a tough fight. In March, when Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti asked Walters if her race was competitive, she replied with a simple “No,” insisting that Democrats “think just because Hillary Clinton won these districts that they can win.” Insisted Walters, “I don’t subscribe to that same idea. If you look at my race, I got 37,000 more votes than Donald Trump did.”
Walters continued to underestimate the depth of her predicament even after Porter emerged from the June top-two primary.