Anibal Ortiz / KPCC
Former President Bill Clinton waves at the crowd at a “California’s Voice” event at University of California Irvine in Irvine Calif., Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Clinton endorsed congressional candidates Alan Lowenthal for Long Beach, Mark Takano for Riverside, Scott Peters for San Diego, Raul Ruiz , and Julia Brownley for Ventura at the rally.
Former President Bill Clinton stopped in Orange County Tuesday to boost the campaigns of Democrats that are in close congressional races.
Cheered on by a crowd of about 5,000, Clinton noted he’s been a strong friend to California over the years, visiting the state 29 times during his first term.
“I saw California lying flat on its back and then I saw California come roaring back to lead America in the 21st century,” Clinton said.
Clinton came to Irvine to give a jolt to Democrats locked in tight races of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Julia Brownley, Raul Ruiz and Mark Takano.
Another candidate, State Senator Alan Lowenthal, is in a tight contest with Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong in the newly-drawn 47th district.
Clinton spent a good part of his speech talking about something President Obama has shied away from - climate change - and said Lowenthal would be a forceful advocate.
“One of the reasons you ought to vote for Alan Lowenthal is that he gets this and he has done it and he will wave the Port of Long Beach in Los Angeles like a flag at Congress until they do something about climate change," Clinton said.
Aside from endorsing Southern California candidates, Clinton also continued his role as an Obama surrogate as he praised health care reform, the president’s student loan overhaul and his handling of the economy.
“We got manufacturing jobs growing for the first time since the 1990s, a quarter more million people making automobiles," Clinton said. "Exports are up 45 percent. We are moving in the right direction. There's a four year high in home ownership, four year high in automobile ownership - shucks, even gas prices are coming down."
After the speech, the same Fleetwood Mac song Clinton used as the theme for his first campaign – “Don’t Stop" – blared over the speakers.
It almost felt like the '90s again, except most of the audience was too young to remember the band.
Maria Ocampo, 18, is a fellow for the California Democratic Party in East L.A. who wanted to see Clinton in person.
"I wasn’t even born when Clinton was running for President," said Ocampo. "But hearing him was so inspirational."
As for the effect on the tight California races, Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the former president’s visit doesn’t worry him because the candidates Clinton endorsed are not the centrists he was.
“Unfortunately for the Democrats, the candidates they’ve put up in those districts are very extreme and do not fit the districts," Scarpinato said. "So I don’t think in districts that are really very much up for grabs by both parties - because voters are independent minded - that they’re looking for candidates who are highly partisan.”
In these closing weeks, expect lots of attention from both parties to these crucial Southern California congressional races, which will help determine whether Republicans can hold their majority in the House of Representatives.