Shifting demographics drive GOP nosedive on US West Coast

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This Jan. 28, 2020 photo shows the Tower theatre located in downtown Bend, Ore., where the population in the early 1990's was around 25,000 and leaned Republican. Demographic shifts are helping push the Republican Party into a nosedive along the West Coast. The last Republican presidential candidate that California went for was George H.W. Bush. For Oregon and Washington, it was Ronald Reagan. Now, Republicans in the three states are even struggling to hold seats in Congress, statehouses and city councils. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)

BEND, Ore. – In the early 1990s, the population of Bend was around 25,000 and leaned Republican. A lumber mill operated in the Oregon high-desert town along the banks of a scenic river.

Today, the lumber mill is an REI outdoor recreation store. The population has quadrupled. And for the first time in memory, the number of registered Democrats in Deschutes County recently eclipsed the number of Republicans.

The transformation shows how demographic shifts and the GOP's tack further to the right are helping push the party into a nosedive along the West Coast.

The last Republican presidential candidate that California went for was George H.W. Bush. For both Oregon and Washington, it was Ronald Reagan. Now, Republicans are struggling to hold seats in Congress, statehouses and city councils up and down the coast.

California, Washington and Oregon will hold their presidential primaries on March 3, March 10 and May 19 respectively, and which Democratic candidates they favor will become clear. But this much is certain: In November, none of the three states is apt to go for President Donald Trump, and there is little hope Republicans will claw back much ground in other contests.

Political districts have flipped in population centers, from San Diego in the south to Seattle in the north.

“There is no way out,” Chris Vance, a former Washington state Republican Party chairman and legislator, said in a telephone interview.

In San Diego, by the U.S.-Mexico border, each of the nine city council districts now has more registered Democrats than registered Republicans, including one that until recently leaned strongly Republican.