The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘The Grand Old Party is dead’: Agony in California as Republican losses spiral

An obituary appeared Tuesday in CALmatters, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization based in Sacramento.

Kristin Olsen, the vice chair of the California Republican Party, announced the death of the political grouping to which she has belonged her entire adult life.

“The California Republican Party isn’t salvageable at this time,” she wrote in a guest column. “The Grand Old Party is dead — partly because it has failed to separate itself from today’s toxic, national brand of Republican politics."

Tuesday brought ample evidence of her point, as Rep. Jeff Denham became the latest California Republican to fall victim to the blue wave that may not have swept the nation but certainly crested in California, the nation’s most populous state.

The four-term incumbent was unseated in California’s farm belt by Josh Harder, a former venture capitalist, the Associated Press concluded a week after voters went to the polls to deliver a nationwide verdict on the first two years of the Trump presidency.

Though the results included bright spots for Republicans, namely the preservation of their Senate majority, Democratic gains in the House, as well as in state and local races, have only grown stronger as close races continue to be called.

Denham joined Reps. Steve Knight and Dana Rohrabacher as ousted GOP incumbents in California. Republicans also surrendered an open seat that will be vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa.

Contests for two California seats have yet to be decided. As of Tuesday night, Republican Rep. Mimi Walters was trailing her Democratic challenger, Katie Porter, in Orange County, the birthplace of modern conservatism. Meanwhile, Republican Young Kim has watched her lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros narrow in an immigrant-heavy swath of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

“While the rest of the nation saw a mix of Republican and Democrat victories, we in California experienced a blue tsunami,” Olsen wrote. “It looks as if Democrats will win nearly every target seat, including some in districts that have been historically considered ‘safe’ for Republicans.”

Denham was in the unenviable position of defending California’s 10th Congressional District, one of seven districts in the state that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 but also put a Republican in the House. Unemployment remains higher in the district, which includes part of the San Joaquin Valley, than the state average, and more than 40 percent of the district’s residents are Hispanic, according to census data.

Democrats harnessed anger with the president, painting the incumbent as a “loyal foot soldier for the Trump agenda.” At town halls, he clashed with his constituents, who scolded him for supporting GOP efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act. “Denham lies,” read a sign at one such event.

His opponent, meanwhile, pledged to support Medicare-for-all and emphasized “humane immigration reform.”