Major fundraising committees on both sides of the aisle are already throwing serious money at the primary race for the newly drawn 47th Congressional District seat in coastal Orange County.
It’s widely seen as a contest between two attorneys: high-profile Democratic incumbent Katie Porter and former GOP Assembly leader Scott Baugh.
But three Republican challengers also hope to be one of the top two candidates who will advance out of the June 7 primary to the November general election, which will determine who will represent CA-47’s more than 760,000 residents. Those challengers — business owners and former congressional candidates Brian Burley and Amy Phan West, along with documentary film producer Errol Webber — all argue it’s time for a fresh face on the right.
Porter, 48, is considered a formidable foe in her quest for a third term. She has one of the biggest campaign war chests in the House and a national profile thanks in large part to viral videos showing her questioning business leaders and others during House committee hearings.
The former UC Irvine law professor flipped her current district in 2018 and won re-election in 2020, when voter registration in the district still leaned narrowly red. And while some lawmakers campaigning in purple districts, such as the newly drawn CA-47 — which leans blue by just 1.3 percentage points — might aim to portray themselves as more moderate, Porter has worn the progressive label as a badge of honor. She’s done so even as she has broken with Democratic leadership on some issues, including her support for a ban on lawmakers trading stocks, which she identified as her proudest moment during more than three years in Congress.
“I champion transparency and accountability to earn Orange County families’ trust,” Porter said, adding that she measures her success by “hearing from families that they feel I’m effectively representing them.”
In terms of ranking her political ideology, Porter gave herself a three on a scale of 1-10, with one being far left.
West gave herself an eight on that same scale. Burley, Webber and Baugh all declined to give themselves scores.
While Porter may have to introduce herself to much of CA-47, since only about a third of the new district overlaps with her current district, Baugh has a long history in the coastal area.
Baugh, 59, owns a law firm in Newport Beach and touts his work with local nonprofits that support kids and veterans. He’s campaigning on a platform of limited government with “lower taxes, more freedom and strong borders.” And he said he’d judge his success on how well he fulfilled what he identified as two key duties of lawmakers.
“First, listen to the people and help them deal with the complexity of often-unresponsive government agencies. Second, stay true to the principles of your campaign and build coalitions to solve problems facing the country.”
Baugh was the local representative to the state Assembly from 1995 to 2000 and was chair of the Orange County GOP from 2004 to 2011. During a 2018 bid for Congress — when Baugh was challenging his former mentor, 30-year GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher — Baugh finished fourth in the primary. He opted not to run in 2020.
Burley did run for the coastal district in the 2020 primary, finishing a distant third. His platform focuses on tax relief, illegal immigration and support for law enforcement and the military. And he said he’d measure his success as an officeholder on implementing those policy plans.
“Too many of our elected officials run on nothing and deliver nothing,” Burley said.
At 29, the Huntington Beach resident is the youngest candidate in the race. He owns an information technology consulting company and is an elected member of the O.C. Central Committee.
West, 41, also owns a business, running a car rental operation with her husband. She came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam when she was a child and now has three kids of her own.
West also ran for Congress in 2020, in a district to the north, finishing third during the primary. In this race for CA-47, she’s running on promises to protect rights for gun owners, fight abortion rights, secure the border and shrink government.
West, who is in the process of moving from Westminster to Huntington Beach, said she would judge her success in office on the answer to this question: “Did I put Americans first in my votes and policy decisions?”
Webber, 35, also is an immigrant, having come to the United States from Jamaica with his family when he was 15. He’s now a filmmaker living in Costa Mesa who won an Oscar in 2010 for a short documentary about Zimbabwean musicians with disabilities. Those filmmaking credentials, combined with Webber’s political activism of the past few years (he backed Larry Elder’s recent gubernatorial campaign), have given him a significant social media following.
Webber didn’t respond to a number of questions about his views on key issues, including how he’d judge his success in office. But his campaign platform focuses on issues including border security, gun rights, voter ID laws and reducing taxes.
Webber, Burley and Baugh all declined to answer a yes/no question on whether they acknowledge Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election; West and Porter said yes.
About the 47th District
Voter registration: 35.4% Democrat, 34.1% Republican, 24.8% no party preference
Demographics: Older and less diverse than neighboring areas at 72.9% White, 15.5% Asian American, 10.7% Latino, 0.9% Black
2020 pick for president: Joe Biden by 11 points
Webber, Burley and Baugh also all declined to say how they’d vote if the question of the legality of gay marriage were to ever come before Congress. West and Porter said they’d support it.
There’s not much else West and Porter agree on, though. West wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, while Porter wants to expand it. West wants less aggressive government policies to combat climate change; Porter wants much more aggressive policies.
Webber is touting an endorsement from General Michael Flynn, a national security adviser to President Donald Trump whose role in attempting to stop certification of the election on Jan. 6, 2021 is now under investigation. Baugh is endorsed by the national GOP.
Veteran political consultant Adam Probolsky of Newport Beach — who counts Baugh as a mentor — said money will be a key to the primary phase of the election. The battle for CA-47 is expected to be one of the most expensive House races in the state if not the country, and Baugh and Porter have huge financial advantages over the other three candidates.
As for the contest between Porter and Baugh, Probolsky said conditions such as Biden’s low approval ratings and a pattern of minority party performance in midterms all favor Republicans this year.
“If there was a moment in time to take out a Democratic incumbent, this election is it,” he said.
Elections officials will begin mailing ballots to all registered voters May 9. Centers will open for in-person voting starting May 28. Visit OCVote.gov to learn more.