MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — March 16, 2020

More than 15 years ago, when I had a regular column in the Daily Pilot, one of the topics I addressed was how popular the city of Costa Mesa was as a political epicenter. 

At the time Michael Huffington was challenging Dianne Fienstein.  Huffington’s campaign headquarters were in Costa Mesa. 

Interesting bit of trivia.  But, not interesting enough for Editor Bill Lobdell, who did not print the submission. 

However, Mona Shadia caught the trend and did a piece on it in today’s Daily Pilot.

Next stop: Costa Mesa

Candidates from both major parties love the city for its location, experts say.

By Mona Shadia

Costa Mesa may be home to the arts in Orange County and world-class shopping, but the 50-year-old city has also become a key stop on the campaign trail.

Even before GOP gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner squared off here Monday night in their first head-to-head debate, Costa Mesa has been a hub for candidates and those in office seeking support on hot-button issues.

One of Barack Obama’s early trips as president was to Costa Mesa.

He stopped at the Orange County Fairgrounds in March 2009 to stump for the economic stimulus package.

In 1992, then-candidate Bill Clinton wanted to cut across party lines and drew 20,000 people to a rally at the Pacific Amphitheater that is also famous for how many people could not get in.

Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin Powell made a campaign stop at the fairgrounds in 2000. Bob Dole also stopped there in 1996.

The city has also been a gathering point on various election nights for the Republican faithful.

“Look at the all the statewide campaigns that open offices in Costa Mesa — we are centrally located,” said county Supervisor John Moorlach. “It’s an incredible little phenomenon.”

Whitman came here before the debate. She recently opened her Orange County campaign office in Costa Mesa.

“Orange County is a major source of funding for Republicans in the state as well as for Democrats, and many of the political leaders of the Republican Party are here in Orange County,” said Fred Smoller, an expert on Orange County politics who directs the master’s of public administration program at Brandman University in Irvine. “This is the most Republican county in the state of California.”

But practical considerations also make Costa Mesa a political hub.

“… Location, location, location,” said Mark Petracca, chairman of the political science department at UC Irvine. “It’s a convenient place — transportation-wise and facility-wise — to host a political event.”

Winning the GOP primary deeply depends on support in Orange County, Smoller said.

“Neither Poizner or Whitman can become the nominee without winning over Orange County,” he said.

State Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, the only Democrat in the governor’s race, has also been to Orange County and will have to come back here if he wants to win, Smoller said.

“If you’re running for governor, you have got to come to Orange County. This is ground zero,” Smoller said.

But Orange County isn’t just for Republicans.

In 2008, the so-called red county gave Obama 48% of the vote.

“Republicans and Democrats regularly come to Orange County to milk the campaign cash cow — sometimes their visits are visible, sometimes not,” Petracca said.

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