December 24, 2004


In GOP They Trust
: Murrieta is a city of affordable housing and deep conservatism -- a reminder that beyond the coasts, California is trending Republican. (Maria L. La Ganga, December 24, 2004, LA Times)

Here in the stout heart of red California, voters snort with disdain when they hear that President Bush's strong victory caught America's Democrats by surprise. Not a single Murrieta precinct swung Sen. John Kerry's way in the bitterly fought 2004 election; in many parts of town, 70% or more of the electorate cast ballots for Bush — a strong show of red unity in one of America's bluest states.

The same values that drew voters here to Bush in the first place also led many of them to Murrieta, the self-proclaimed gem of the Temecula Valley, where streets are safe, schools are good and housing is more affordable than in many other parts of California.

Churches outnumber bars here some 15 to one, 40% of the residents are of school age, and 71% are white. Murrieta's population has quadrupled since 1990, as thoroughbred ranches and chaparral-covered hills due east of Orange County have given way to subdivisions with names like Pacific Oaks, Sedona, Meadowlane.

"People come here with their families, and they want a conservative lifestyle that they can re-create," said Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Seyrato, who moved here nearly 15 years ago with his wife from Los Angeles County so they could buy a house and start a family. "We were able to recapture the fresh neighborhood of the '60s feel…. It had a lot of promise out here."

Boomtown California is Republican California, and this 13-year-old city of 77,661 could be its capital — bustling with earth-moving equipment and flag men, bristling with signs that promise "Coming Soon!" and "Starting in the $200,000's," Murrieta is all road construction and just-framed subdivisions and a parade route that navigates delicately through the confusion.

Bush lost California resoundingly last month, so it is easy to forget that more people voted for him in this state than in any other in America. With population and political clout clustered in Democratic Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area, it's also easy to overlook the rapid spread of conservative California.

Since 1992, the number of California counties with more registered Republicans than voters of any other party has nearly tripled, from 13 to 37 out of 58. That growth has shaped exurbs such as Murrieta, where "we're red. We're getting redder … [and] the Democrats don't even bother to organize," said Shaun Bowler, professor of political science at UC Riverside.

Embracing instead of fighting Mexican immigrants and using social issues and school vouchers to appeal to blacks would make Republicans the majority there even before demographics does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2004 9:28 AM
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