Democratic congressional blowouts in Orange County, the rise of women to elected political office in historic numbers, a drop in homelessness in Los Angeles and devastating wildfires that ravaged and destroyed hillside communities were some of the biggest stories in Los Angeles and the Golden State in 2018.
Republicans were pummeled nationwide in the 2018 midterm elections, gaining two seats in the United States Senate but losing 40 in the House of Representatives, including a stunning sweep in Orange County, the birthplace of California conservatism. Familiar names such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) were defeated, thanks in large part to the county's cultural shifts and political realignment as well as droves of suburban women abandoning the GOP — at least in this election.
Another reason Republicans lost so badly in California and other areas of the country, according to political analysts, was Republican legislators’ ties to President Donald Trump, who remains highly unpopular, especially in California, two years into his presidency.
“2018 will be the biggest single leap for women in state history,” predicted Close the Gap CA executive director Susannah Delano on Election Night.
Delano’s prediction turned out to be prophetic, as voters sent a record-setting 28 women to Sacramento, where they will join their colleagues in January. The number jumps to 54 if the number of women elected in congressional races is counted.
Close the Gap CA is an organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in the state legislature.
There was some bad news for state Democrats. California Democratic Party chairman Eric Bauman resigned in disgrace on Nov. 29 after a sexual harassment scandal became public.
Prior to the electoral firestorm lit by Democrats upending the Republican Party, the hillsides of California were practically annihilated by the Camp and Woolsey wildfires, the former being the most destructive in state history and sixth deadliest in U.S. history.
The Camp fire caused at least 86 civilian fatalities, injured 12 civilians and five firefighters, covering an area of 153,336 acres and destroying 18,804 structures. The fire was finally contained on Nov. 25 after 17 days, having obliterated the town of Paradise and leaving countless people homeless. The Camp fire caused an estimated $7 billion to $10 billion in damages.
The Woolsey fire, while not as destructive, nevertheless burned 96,949 acres of land, destroying 1,643 structures and causing the evacuation of nearly 300,000 residents.
The Woolsey fire was the second blow for Thousand Oaks, which on Nov. 27 was the site of one of the worst mass shootings of 2018, at the Borderline Bar & Grill, a country-western bar frequented by students of nearby colleges. A dozen people were killed, including a police officer who rushed the gunman. The perpetrator also died.
On the homelessness front, the number of people without homes dropped 4 percent but increased in cities such as Santa Monica and in the San Fernando Valley. Los Angeles plans to build more affordable housing and bridge housing — housing that will shelter people until they can transition into permanent housing — in the first quarter of 2019.
Ramon Escobar, an alleged serial killer from Texas, targeted homeless men and women in Santa Monica and Los Angeles for nearly a month, reportedly murdering at least four and assaulting several others. His reign of terror ended with his capture by Santa Monica police on Sept. 25.
Housing affordability remained a hot-button topic. A ballot initiative to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act of 1995, which limits municipalities' ability to implement rent control, failed at the ballot box but housing affordability advocates have vowed to try again.
Bird, Lime and other electronic scooters descended on Santa Monica, Los Angeles and many other major cities, often without warning and no prior municipal safety reviews.
Seen as another method of alternative transportation to get cars off the road, and specifically targeting “last-mile” transportation, they are immensely popular with users, but critics say riders can be reckless and several injuries and accidents have been reported.
The first lawsuit against Bird Rides Inc. and Lime was filed in October in Los Angeles, alleging the companies’ negligence was responsible for several injuries to people struck by the electric scooters.