ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – In 2000, Orange County, Florida was a red, or primarily Republican County. Yes, just 17 years ago, Orange County was a predominantly Republican town. While the numbers were close, those numbers were only close between the Democrat and Republican Party. In fact only a few hundred Independents were registered in the town known mostly for theme parks and easy living. Today that same county has grown uniquely with now over 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans and over 20,000 more registered No Party Affiliation (NPA) voters. Republicans are now the third leading organized political party in the County. But how did this occur? Let’s explore this transformation and discuss if options exist to whether the Republican Party of Orange County, now suggested as one of the most booming areas in the Country, can return to its glory days of decades ago.
THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE
According to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website, here’s what the voter registration party affiliation numbers look like.
Democrats: In 2000, the number of registered Democrats was 143,733. In 2017, the number has jumped to 337,480. That’s an increase of 193,747 in the last seventeen years.
No Party Affiliation (NPA): In 2000, the number of registered NPA voters in Orange County were three figures–600. Today, Orange County has 234,760 registered NPA voters, an increase of 234,160.
Republican: In 2000, we were 150,393 strong. We’ve increased as well, but not with the same margin of difference. In 2017, there are 215,789 registered Republican voters in Orange County, but that’s an increase of 65,396–five figures compared to the six-figured NPA and Democrat increases.
Other: Even those registered as Other experienced a substantial spike. In 2000, there were none in Orange County. Today, there are 5,165 voters in Orange County that register under other parties.
As you can see, the Orange County voter registration has exploded on all fronts in the last seventeen years as our population grew. The total number of registered voters in 2000 was 294,726. Today, there are 793,194 registered voters. That’s a nearly 500,000-voter increase.
HOW WE GOT HERE
After the Bush era, Democrats in Orange County–and throughout the country for that matter–effectively organized to change the landscape of registered voters to ensure a Democrat President in 2008. The writing was on the wall. We learned the “weapons of mass destruction” didn’t exist and our real estate market and economy were on a serious downturn. All of a sudden, the party that supports economic prosperity was in the leadership role while our economy was falling apart. So voters were losing faith and seeking answers wanting our country to move “forward”… remember? It’s most likely why Hillary Clinton lost her first bid for President. So by droves, disappointed Republicans, not willing to be Democrats, moved to NPA (No Party Affiliation) voters and hence a huge shift occurred. No, it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it was a carefully well-executed plan by the Democratic Party to change the future. Democrats simply worked harder. But after eight years of that plan in action, and changes that seemed to benefit only those concerned with social issues, yet another shift is afoot. But can a county so upside down in their registered voter numbers return to the red county it once was? Sure…but a number of factors need to be addressed for that magic to occur with one common theme: TRUMP.
THE CHALLENGES BEFORE US
Depending on who you speak to in the local Republican Party, the challenges are unique. Some believe changes in society in general and an ever-increasing liberal presence of those working in the tourism industry makes the voter registration fight senseless in our town. Others will argue it’s the sheer number of few precinct committeemen and women that contribute to the numbers.
My feeling is a bit different. While voter registration needs to be a priority, as does increasing the number of precinct committeemen and women, I’d argue we can increase our Republican presence in Orange County by leaps and bounds with one driving factor: The success of President Donald J. Trump.
ORANGE COUNTY VOTERS IN THE PRESIDENT TRUMP ERA
We’re attracted to winners. People who lift us and appear to have our best interest at heart. If President Trump can win some battles and victories for the American people in Washington that he campaigned on, you’ll see a definite switch in the Republican Party numbers…even locally. If the President isn’t as successful as he campaigned on, well, there may not be much change in these numbers. In fact, without an organized effort to change voter registration numbers, any Trump failure will only deter future opportunity to make a shift in the current numbers. So while Trump won Orange County handily in the Republican Presidential Preference Primary, the reality of our county was clear in the general election when Hillary took Orange County. A reality based in the numbers.
And sadly, without a huge shift, Republicans simply cannot win in Orange County in partisan elections. That too holds true for the presidential race in 2020.
Randy Ross is a political contributor for Florida National News. firstname.lastname@example.org