|Montara Beach on San Mateo County coast, 2018 (CalPolitiCal photo)|
For the first time in 134 years, the California coast will be cleared of Republican congress members. When the 116th Congress convenes in January 2019, none of the fifteen California congressional districts that border the Pacific Ocean will be occupied by a Republican. This will be due to the defeat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Orange County) by Democrat Harley Rouda and the replacement of Darrell Issa (R-San Diego County) with Democrat Mike Levin. Congressmen Rohrabacher and Issa represented districts on the Orange and San Diego county coastlines.
The California coast extends 840 miles (1,350 km) from Oregon to Mexico. The last time that Democrats occupied all California congressional districts on the Pacific Coast was during the 48th Congress, 1883 to 1885. There were then six congressional districts in California, five of which touched the Pacific Ocean. All California members of the U.S. House of Representatives were Democrats. Other than the 116th Congress to be seated in 2019, that was the only Congress since the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861-65) that had Democrats occupying districts over the entire length of the California coast.
Democrats came close to representing the entire California coastline during the 75th Congress (1937-39), the high-water mark of Democratic dominance of Congress during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal era. California then had ten congressional districts (out of twenty statewide) that bordered the Pacific Ocean. Democrats occupied eight of those seats, covering the entire California coast north and south of San Francisco. However, San Francisco itself was represented by Franck Havenner, then a Progressive party member, and Richard Welch, a Republican. Both San Francisco districts then apparently bordered the Pacific Ocean.
As the 116th Congress begins in 2019, the fewest Republicans will be sitting in the California House delegation since the end of World War II, more than 70 years ago. There will be just eight California House Republicans in January 2019. The last time that fewer Republicans sat in the California U.S. House delegation was during the 79th Congress (1945-47), which had seven California Republicans (out of the state's then-23 seats).
The 116th Congress will have a mere three southern California Republicans (districts that are entirely or predominately south of the northern border of Los Angeles County). The last Congress that had as many or fewer southern California Republican members was the 79th Congress (1945-47), which also had three southern California Republican members. In the 106th Congress (1999-2001), southern California sent 17 Republicans to Congress; the region has lost fourteen Republican congressional seats, a staggering 82 percent decline, over the past twenty years.
The 45 California Democratic members of the 116th Congress also will set a new record for the largest number of members of one party from a single state. No other state can possibly topple this record for the foreseeable future because the next largest U.S. House delegation is from Texas (36 members). When the 116th Congress convenes in 2019, Texas will have 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Even if Texas were to elect 100 percent Republicans or 100 percent Democrats in 2020, it would still fall short of California’s “45 members from one party” benchmark set in the 2018 congressional election.
The 116th Congress also will be a 134-year low-water mark for California House Republicans by another measure. Republicans will occupy just 15 percent of California’s 53 congressional seats. This is lower than the 20 percent (four seats out of twenty total) that California Republicans filled during the 75th Congress (1937-39) at the height of FDR’s New Deal. The only other Congress since the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861) in which California Republicans occupied a lower percentage of congressional seats was during the 48th Congress (1883-85), when California Republicans filled zero of the state’s six seats.
[Article revised on November 17, 2018 to reflect latest election returns.]