NEWPORT BEACH (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence visited Southern California on Monday to raise money for endangered Republican congressional candidates, hoping to foil Democrats’ hopes of retaking the House next year.
Pence spoke for about 25 minutes to over 100 people at a private lunch at a luxury resort in Newport Beach, predicting that the improved economy would help Republican candidates hold their ground in California, said Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel, a host of the event.
Tickets started at $2,700 each.
Republicans “want to build a firewall” in California, undercutting Democratic chances of retaking the House in 2018, Steel said.
“The Democrats think that they have an opportunity in California. It’s a bad bet,” Steel added.
Democrats are targeting seven California Republicans who hold seats in districts carried by Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential campaign. Clinton trounced President Donald Trump by more than 4 million votes in the strongly Democratic state, and Democrats are hoping opposition to the president’s environmental, immigration and health care policies in California will drive voters to the polls next year.
Several of those competitive seats are in Orange County, once a Republican fortress where Democrats have been steadily increasing their numbers.
Steel said House members who attended the fundraiser included Reps. Darrell Issa, Mimi Walters, Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce.
Pence arrived in Los Angeles Sunday for a three-day visit to the state, after making news for walking out of the 49ers-Colts football game, saying he disagreed with the nearly dozen San Francisco players who took a knee during the national anthem.
After the Newport Beach event, Pence and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy were scheduled to fly to Sacramento later Monday for an event to discuss tax reform.
Trump hasn’t visited California since he won office.
California also has firmly opposed the administration’s immigration policies. Gov. Jerry Brown signed sanctuary state legislation last week that extends protections for immigrants living in the United States illegally.
California has long been a font of campaign dollars for both major political parties.