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Rep. Katie Porter taps Iowa roots, long history with Elizabeth Warren in stumping for the senator

Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

Warren's other major first-term endorsers -- Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Deb Haaland of New Mexico -- occupy reliably Democratic seats. But Porter defies that trend. Her district is hardly a liberal bastion -- she is the first Democrat to represent that patch of Orange County since the 1930s, and registered Republicans still outnumber Democrats by a margin of roughly 17,000.

Porter ran in 2018 to unseat incumbent GOP Rep. Mimi Walters with Warren's encouragement and endorsement; the Massachusetts senator featured prominently in her campaign advertising.

"She had a tight primary. She had a tight general," Newman said. "She had a really tough district. It was considered to be on the bubble of being a lost cause going in."

Porter made a few breaks from the left, such as opposing a hike in the state gas tax, but her message largely echoed that of Warren's in blasting the influence of money in politics. She won by 4 points.

Now, Porter is trying to convince Iowans, desperate for a Democrat who can beat President Donald Trump, that if a Warren-style campaign can succeed in Orange County, it can succeed elsewhere.

"I just offer you proof that you can win on the policies that you believe in, and that are authentic to you and your experience and that speak to your community, anywhere in the country," she said in Iowa City.

Republicans, meanwhile, are ready to pounce on Porter's Iowa field trips. One email blast from the Orange County GOP accused her of "championing Warren's extreme agenda to raise your taxes and end your private healthcare options." Another missive from the National Republican Congressional Committee pointedly posed the question, "Is Katie Porter running for Congress in Iowa?"

Mike Moodian, a political commentator and professor at Chapman University in Orange, said the association with Warren may affect Porter's reelection prospects some, although she would likely be helped by Trump's unpopularity in Orange County.

 

"It could be a bigger problem for her maybe down the road, when Donald Trump isn't on the ballot," he said.

'Porter brushes off critiques of being an absentee congresswoman, noting she's had a dozen town halls in the district. And to hear her tell it to Iowans, this is exactly where her constituents want her to be.

"My constituents in California -- they know why I'm here in Iowa this weekend and not with them," she said in Cedar Rapids. She rattled off a list of domino effects that would come from a Warren win in Iowa: momentum to tackle corruption, prevent gun violence deaths, tackle climate change and other liberal priorities.

"I'm so proud to be an Iowan this weekend," she continued. "I will be really proud to be an Iowan on Feb. 3."

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