Inland Empire

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Turning ‘Purple’ — The Inland Empire’s Shifting Voter Demographics

By Steven Cuevas, KPCC Radio

Mark Takano (D), newly elected representative from the 41st Congressional District in the Inland Empire. (MarkTakano.com)

Mark Takano (D), newly elected representative from the 41st Congressional District in the Inland Empire. (MarkTakano.com)

California’s Congressional delegation will include about a dozen new faces next year. Redistricting and the state’s “Top Two” primary system led to an unusual number of competitive races, as well as a few upsets — and Democrats are the beneficiaries.

Of the state’s 53 Congressional districts, 34 are currently represented by Democrats. With Tuesday’s voting, at least one more seat will turn blue, while three other races still appear too close to call.

For starters, parts of the Inland Empire are looking a lot more purple — with areas once seen as Republican strongholds giving way to a wave of Democratic newcomers.

Early on election night, Mark Takano wasn’t yet ready to claim victory as returns showed him ahead of his Republican opponent in the newly drawn 41st Congressional District. “So let’s be patient,” he said, “luxuriate in the feeling we have now and be hopeful that change has come to Riverside.” Continue reading

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:

 

In Inland Empire Economic Distress May Drive Voters

Each weekday at noon, on the front lawn of the Riverside Courthouse, hundreds of thousands of dollars change hands in the auction of homes recently foreclosed in Riverside County. Events like this one are held each day here — and in San Bernardino, Chino, Fontana and other Inland Empire cities hit hard by the housing bust.

Bidders, many working for housing speculators, sit in lawn chairs with little blue awnings to protect themselves from the brutal noon sun.

Behind each auction is a story. A person, a family. People who reached for the American dream, but couldn’t hold onto it.

As the auction continues, I ask one of the bidders — Long Beach realtor Jesus Quintaro — if he ever thinks about the former owners who lost the homes he’s bidding on. “I do think about it,” he says, “but a lot of them got a lot of money out of their homes. They refinanced. Some may be victims — but a lot of them made the choice to refinance, get money out, or get into a home they couldn’t afford in the first place.

Another bidder, John Chang from Orange County, sees complains that the media portray investors who buy up foreclosed homes as vultures. He says they’re making a contribution — putting people to work. Continue reading

First Up on KQED’s Election 2012 Road Trip: The Inland Empire

Scott Shafer reporting in the Inland Empire

The California Report’s Scott Shafer just returned from the first stop on a statewide “listening tour” to take the pulse of California voters this election year.

The November election is shaping up to be a referendum on government… “How much government do we want? And who’s going to pay for it?” So we’re framing our election coverage with the question “What’s Government For?”

In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, Shafer heard some surprising answers, such as Republicans feeding the poor and asking government to do more. And he found that the region’s elected officials don’t yet reflect the changing political complexion of its current population.

In the presidential lounge at Riverside’s Mission Inn hang portraits of the presidents who have visited over the years. All but one are Republicans. And the Inland Empire has long been a bastion of the GOP. Four years ago, though, voters went for Barack Obama.

Shafer found that many of the new Democratic voters are transplants from coastal cities like Los Angeles. And many of them are Latinos. But low voter turnout prevents them from having the political clout they could. Shafer met some folks who are trying to change that.

Take a listen:

 

California’s Inland Empire

So what is the Inland Empire?

MAJOR CITIES: Riverside, San Bernardino, Fontana, Moreno Valley, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Corona, Victorville, Murrietta, Temecula

POPULATION: 4.2 million (grew by almost one-third over past decade)

RACE and ETHNICITY: Latino 47%, White 37%, Black 7%, Asian American 6%

MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Warehousing/logistics, service sector, manufacturing, agriculture (once-booming construction and real estate/finance jobs dried up with the mortgage meltdown)

ECONOMIC INDICATORS: 13% unemployment, second highest home foreclosure rate in California, highest poverty rate in California for a metro area larger than 2 million people