Election Road Trip: Inland Empire Voters Seek a Voice in Wake of Recession

Riverside Foreclosure Auction/Scott Shafer

Outside the courthouse in the city of Riverside housing speculators sit in lawn chairs — protected from the mid-day sun by little blue awnings — and place their bids in the daily home foreclosure auction.

The same scene plays out every week day in San Bernardino, Chino, Fontana and other Inland Empire cities. Behind each auction is someone who reached out for the American Dream but couldn’t hold on.

On a road trip to take the political pulse of this growing region, The California Report’s Scott Shafer talked with homeowners losing their grasp and investors scooping up properties at a discount — who say they are re-energizing the area’s economy and helping it recover from the crushing effects of the recession.

But it will take a long time for the Inland Empire to bounce back from the mortgage meltdown. The region boomed in the last decade, then suffered the second highest home foreclosure rate in the country. It still struggles with 13 percent unemployment, higher than the state average.

The recession has left many in the Inland Empire feeling politically irrelevant and overlooked, in spite of the fact that the region is home to 4 million people, larger than many states.

In his reporting, Shafer found people working to create a stronger political voice for the region. And this election year could be key.

Though the Inland Empire has long been a Republican stronghold, many of the new arrivals from coastal cities are more likely to be Democrats. That means that several congressional elections here are now hotly contested. And with both parties campaigning hard, the Inland Empire could get what it’s been craving: attention from politicians.

Listen to Shafer’s story: