Published in The Orange County Register 4/20/19

Democrats’ success in Orange County is being championed from coast to coast. Not only did we flip four congressional seats, but we’re less than 8,500 people away from surpassing Republicans in voter registration.

These are major milestones for a region that’s been a conservative stronghold for decades. It’s proof that the “blue wave” is just the beginning and we’re not turning back. Orange County residents are ready for a change — they’re ready for leaders who will speak for them and who will stand up for their values and their priorities.

We’re seeing momentum in Orange County because the Democratic Party of Orange County supports our growing populations’ needs. We are the party that stands up for healthcare and education, and that battles climate change. We are the champions of the middle class which is being relentlessly attacked by Republicans. And at the center of our work must be the commitment to creating greater opportunity for all through policies that address these issues.

Orange County’s coastline draws people from all over the world and we’re simply not doing enough to protect it. We need more policies that preserve and protect our natural resources and address climate change. And while Orange County’s beaches, parks, and hiking trails attract numerous visitors, many of our communities don’t have their own designated green space. We must work with community leaders to create more open space and greater walkability. This must be balanced with equal protection of vulnerable locations like fire hazard zones. We need greater investment in fire preparedness programs to protect homeowners and give our cities the tools they need to prevent and respond to wildfires.

Much like the rest of California, Orange County is in the midst of a housing crisis. We must work to create more housing, but make sure it isn’t done at the expense of our communities and local businesses. We can implement smart growth plans that make greater use of our space, make our neighborhoods more walkable, and ensure no communities are marginalized. And we must develop more affordable housing to ensure the people who serve our communities can afford to live here.

Preserving the middle class is critical if we want Orange County to continue to thrive. The middle class is the engine of our economy and we must stand for policies that help working families succeed. As I speak with people across the county, far too many are seeing their cost of living increase without a corresponding increase in their wages. Workers are being forced to live off less and less, causing the number of the working poor to rise. It’s all the more reason why we must ensure all people in Orange County are paid a fair wage — that includes equal pay and ensuring that women are paid the same amount as their male counterparts. And we must stand up for policies that support working families, like affordable child care and paid time off. No parent should have to worry about losing their job if their child is sick or if they need to care for a family member. We also must work to ensure every family has access to the same opportunities, meaning more investments in programs for our children like English and technology classes and other community resources that give our young people the chance to get ahead.

Lastly, we must continue to stand by one of our guiding principles — that healthcare is a right. A new report found that Americans borrowed $88 billion last year for healthcare expenses — with 3 million people borrowing $10,000 or more. That’s unacceptable. Democrats will work to ensure greater access to quality, affordable healthcare. While Republicans talk about repealing Obamacare, we’ll work to improve it and advocate for policies that help people access care when they need it. Women proved to be a force to be reckoned with in this last election — and in Orange County, we’re going to let them know we hear them. We’ll stand up to any efforts to limit a woman’s ability to make her own healthcare decisions. Democrats know that when women can make their own choices, they and their families thrive.

These are some of the many issues Orange County will be grappling with in the coming years and it’s critical that the Democratic party become an active voice in the discussion of how we address these issues. With a population of more than 3 million people, we have the potential to harness our power and make real change for the people who live here. I’m eager to work with leaders, residents, and small business owners all over the county on these issues and help our families and our communities thrive.

Ada Briceño is Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County.