Protesters greet GOP at Flag Day fundraiser
IRVINE — Orange County Republicans gathered Saturday for their annual Flag Day fundraiser at a time when their brand as the bastion of California conservatism was in peril — the county voted for a Democrat for president for the first time since the Great Depression, and flipping four of the county’s congressional seats is key to the opposition party’s efforts to retake Congress.
But the roughly 1,000 attendees were unfazed.
“Bring it on,” said Fred Whitaker, the county party chairman, at the dinner fundraiser at the Hotel Irvine. He noted that national Democrats planned to set up an office nearby to contest four congressional districts in the county that are represented by Republicans but voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. “We save those seats, we save the House, we do our part.”
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) was scheduled to headline the dinner.
The Central Valley Republican leads the House Intelligence Committee and has been at the center of controversy because of his handling of confidential information in the probe of suspected Russian interference in the November election.
He was to be introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), one of a handful of Republican members in California who represent districts that voted for Clinton. These elected officials are major targets for Democrats as they try to retake the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections.
Susan Wong, a registered nurse from Orange, and her husband, Jim, were among the protesters on hand Saturday. “You just can’t stay home. I’m horrified every day. Instead of yelling at the television, I’m going to come out and protest,” said Wong, 64, standing outside the hotel before the event began.
Wong said she has seen a sharp decline in the number of uninsured people at the community college clinic where she works, progress she fears will be undone if President Trump is successful in his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And she worries about the impact on her husband, a former research biologist with Parkinson’s who is on disability.
“I’m a nurse. I know what happens when people don’t have insurance,” she said.
Two Republican lawmakers were undeterred by the protesters and dismissed them due to the size of the group. Rep. Darrell Issa (RVista) called them “pathetic.”
“They don’t represent my constituents. None of them represent my constituents,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach). “They are a political organization asking me to pay homage to them. Forget it.”
Issa said the protesters who visit his office weekly have dwindled in numbers. At the fundraiser, “There were almost none. There’s a couple million people in the surrounding communities and to have those few tells you the real momentum of this movement has really died.”
LULU HAMMED of Aliso Viejo protests near Hotel Irvine, where Republicans were holding a fundraiser.