Despite some erosion, Citrus Heights remains GOP country

Citrus Heights is known for its mall and to a much lesser degree an amusing intersection where Sunrise (Boulevard) implausibly meets Sunset (Avenue), Citrus Heights. It has also long been known as Republican country, and for good reason.

In 2016, the city gave Trump an 8-point win and then a solid 4.7-point margin in 2020. Similarly, the nearest five-term Democrat U.S. Rep. Ami Bera has ever come to winning here was a five-point shortfall in November to a second-tier GOP candidate who trained his campaign using a former hate-group strategist.

So Citrus Heights is dependably Red. That said, smaller shifts are at play. The first indication of this is that shrunken victory margin by Trump in 2020. It’s not enough to push the city anywhere near swing territory. After all, Democrats have done well over the past decade to simply keep its voter registration share apace with the city’s 4.6% population growth.

No. Where the truly interesting action in town is in the No Party Preference/Independent category. Drawing almost completely from the GOP share, NPP/Indies have added six points in the last decade and pulled Republican registration down to almost equal to the Democrats. On paper at least.

This decline is almost certainly due to the local, state and national GOP having lost its path. This has left Main Street Republicans with no interest in Trump’s crude cult of personality and conspiracy theories to de-affiliate.

However, when push comes to shove in a red-versus-blue general election contests, they generally vote Republican. To more exactly examine this, we need to skip Trump’s last election, as too many Republicans voted against him for President, but voted red down ballot.

Instead, a better race to review is the 2020 State Assembly District 8 race of moderate incumbent Ken Cooley (D) versus Republican Cathy Cook. All of Citrus Heights resides in this district, and Cook was a credible candidate, even if a longshot given the Democratic makeup in the rest of SA-8 is. Still, in Citrus Heights she won by a solid 6 points.

Making the safe assumption of equal turnout by Democrats and Republicans, we can assume each candidate won their party’s voter registration share. Presuming all registered Republicans (37%) voted for Cook, then she got roughly 16 points of the 29 point NPP/Independent vote, and Cooley got the other 13 points. This computes to a 55-45 Republican advantage among Citrus Heights NPP/Indies.

(And if we review the 2018 State Senate contest between Republican incumbent Jim Nielsen and Progressive Phillip Kim, we see a fairly similar split as well.)

What all this means is Citrus Heights should be consistently producing a 15- to 20-point GOP advantage. This unappealing aspects of an extremist GOP has eroded this, although not to give Democrats realistic dreams any time soon. However, if local Republicans don’t pull themselves out of their party’s death spiral of extremist Trumpism, it could inspire more candidates to launch independent runs not unlike Rich Desmond did in 2020 for the District 3 County Board of Supervisors.