When Joan Crockett arrived at the Christian Science Church in Pico Rivera for the Republican caucus Monday night, she was simply excited to vote and to meet her fellow Republicans.
“I’m very happy to do this. I think it’s absolutely important,” said Crockett, 78, who grew up in Iowa. “You’ve got to have a voice.”
At the same time, Crockett said she believes voters are so disenfranchised by the system, most people will fail to vote.
“There’s no reason for you to go and be a Republican or be a Democrat,” she said. “But, I think that’s the main reason they don’t vote.”
Crockett’s voter registration reflects that. She and her husband John, who’s in his 80s, are Democrats. But John has long been a Republican.
“We never voted for a Democrat,” said Crockett, who first registered to vote as a Republican as an immigrant from Cuba. She then switched to another party before supporting Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primary.
Her husband, an engineer, doesn’t believe he’s been able to vote for himself.
“He’s 73, and he just can’t vote,” Crockett said. “He’s never been able to vote for the government he’s always been paying taxes for.”
Although they are Texans, Joan and John, who holds an engineering degree, have lived in California for nearly four decades. They moved to Monterey before a Dallas project job required them to move to Iowa, where Joan went back to school, but they always moved back to Southern California.
California. And now Iowa.
Today’s Iowans, with the help of small business owner Jack Block, have set up booths in large hotels. They focus on social issues, like same-sex marriage, abortion rights and gun control.
Tuesday morning’s caucuses have rapidly transformed from a New England tradition into a worldwide spectacle.
Southern California Republican voters have been among the most active, and the political enthusiasts in Orange County — home to a large number of evangelical Christians — has been a key part of the groundwork for the Trump-backed GOP presidential nomination.
Christians at Red Bird Cafe in Orange on Monday. Photo by Patrick O'Donnell.
In recent years, several elected Republicans have been based in Orange County: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, former Gov. George Deukmejian, and former U.S. Rep. Bob Dornan, who was defeated by Ron Paul in the GOP presidential primary in 2008.
When Ed Royce announced in December he would not seek another term in Congress after his current term ends, the Democrat-leaning district that oversees Orange County’s suburbs shifted from one mostly held by Republicans to one that favored Democrat Gil Cisneros.
In Orange County, as in the rest of the state, there are signs of moderates’ reluctance to embrace their political party.
At a Trump rally in October, a protester interrupted Trump. Trump did not shy away from the man, and during the speech later, he alluded to running for governor of California in 2020 or 2021.
And the day before the caucus, when Royce’s district changed again to an open seat after he announced he would not seek another term, the only candidate to sign up to run was Democrat Mike Levin, who was an anti-war protester at a Republican convention several years ago.
Levin was a disruptive presence at GOP gatherings in the county. But now he’s almost invisible compared to the thousands of supporters who have flooded into Pico Rivera.
One Orange County Republican organizer said he was really excited when Royce announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection.
“We needed an open seat,” said Chris Norby, who was elected in 1982.
So he organized a group to work for the Republicans in Iowa and had others travel up there to volunteer. He admits he and the others involved with the effort know “nothing about Iowa.”
But he said Monday night’s caucuses were a success.
“It was terrific,” Norby said. “The caucus meetings were a significant amount of fun and it was well-organized. And we were able to turn out a significant number of caucus-goers who are supportive of Ron Paul and may have stayed home otherwise.”