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Despite some erosion, Citrus Heights stays 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). It has also long been known as Republican country 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 this past 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 into true swing territory. It’s been victory enough for Democrats that they’ve kept their registration share on pace with the city’s 4.6% population growth.

Where the truly interesting action in town is in the No Party Preference/ Independent category. Registered NPP/Indie voters in Citrus Heights have grown by six points in the last decade – drawn almost completely from the Republican share. This has pulled Republican registrations down 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 with little option other than to de-affiliate from the GOP.

However, when push comes to shove in a red-versus-blue general election contest, they generally vote Republican. To see this in action, first ignore Trump’s last election, as too many Republicans voted against him for President, but still voted red down ballot.

Instead, review the 2020 State Assembly District 8 race between 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 AD-8. Still, in Citrus Heights she won by a solid 6 points.

If one makes the safe assumption of equal turnout by Democrats and Republicans and presume all registered Republicans (37%) voted for Cook, then she got roughly 16 points of the 29 point NPP/Independent vote. Cooley in turn got the other 13 points. This translates into 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 this all mean is although Citrus Heights should be consistently producing a 15- to 20-point GOP advantage, it still remains safe GOP territory in the plus-6-8 point range range. The unappealing extremist aspects of the GOP is eroding this, but not fast enough 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.

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