Democrats’ Bid to Regain Hold on House Begins in California

VISTA, Calif. — Representative Darrell Issa was 2,500 miles away from his Southern California home the other day, on a fund-raising mission to Florida. Outside his congressional district office here, a light drizzle fell from the sky. It was a weekday morning.

But no matter. Close to 1,000 people were gathered for yet another weekly demonstration, a jumble of umbrellas, placards (“Repeal and Replace Issa”), honking horns and angry chants. They denounced Mr. Issa, a Republican who has held his House seat since 2001, for his support of President Trump and the Republican health care bill.

“There are a lot of people who are very passionate,” said Nancy Arwine-Mavers, 58, a cardiac sonographer. She said this was her first political rally since marching for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. “People who usually don’t protest are coming out. They are realizing that one vote could cause them to lose their health care.”

If Democrats have any chance of capturing the 24 Republican seats they need to take back control of the House, the road to victory starts here in California, and particularly in Orange County, a former conservative bastion that favored Hillary Clinton in 2016. It was the first time the county had voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.

All 14 members of the California Republican congressional delegation voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including seven who, like Mr. Issa, represent districts that voted for Mrs. Clinton. Four of those come from districts that include Orange County.

With its changing demographics and its declining Republican Party, California has increasingly loomed as the center of any national battle for House control. The Trump fervor this year offers an opportunity for Democrats to make the sort of congressional district gains that have eluded them even as they have come to dominate state politics over the last decade.

At least for one election, it seems, there will be a role reversal: The state that has long served mostly as just an A.T.M. for candidates from across the nation will be on the receiving end of campaign cash.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in an early show of force, is opening an office in Irvine. The committee’s western director, Kyle Layman, is already on the scene, working at a cafe table outside a Whole Foods Market in Tustin until a lease is signed.

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