Former President Barack Obama spoke at a rally Saturday in the Anaheim Convention Center to voice support for seven Democratic congressional candidates running for office in Orange County districts for the upcoming November elections.
“If we don’t step up, things can get worse,” Obama said to an invitation-only crowd of 900 Democratic activists. “In two months, we have the chance to restore some sanity to our politics. We have the chance to flip the House of Representatives and make sure there are real checks and balances in Washington.”
The speech came one day after Obama made critical remarks at the University of Illinois about President Donald Trump and other Republican members of Congress for the first time since leaving office.
In his Friday speech, Obama called Trump a “symptom, not the cause” of a widening divide among Americans. No mention of Trump was made at the Anaheim rally.
In Orange County, a traditionally GOP-held district, Democrats are gearing up in their efforts to help flip at least 24 of the 435-seat House of Representatives.
Battleground races will be held in the 39th, 45th, 48th and 49th districts where Democratic candidates are now attempting to win over Republican-held districts that were won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Orange County Republicans make up 36 percent of registered voters while Democrats follow closely behind at 34 percent, according to the county’s Registrar of Voters database. Those who label themselves with no party preference constitute 26 percent of registered voters.
In the 39th District, Gil Cisneros (D-Fullerton) and Young Kim (R-Fullerton) will be competing to fill Ed Royce’s (R-Fullerton) seat, who announced in January that he will not be running again for re-election.
Donovan Rinker-Morris, a volunteer with the Cisneros campaign, who attended the Anaheim rally, said there’s a lot at stake with this upcoming election and it’s important that people in the community are working together to “fix” the country.
“The campaign is close. It’s a district that has always been in Republican hands and there’s a strong republican machine behind it,” Rinker-Morris said. “But we have a large crowd of people who never participated in politics before who are coming from all sorts of corners. I’m one of them.”
Besides Cisneros, other congressional candidates Obama campaigned for at the rally included: Josh Harder, T.J Cox, Katie Hill, Katie Porter, Harley Rouda and Mike Levin.
Outside the convention center, counter-protests occurred with two people shouting Bible verses at the lined-up crowd waiting to get into the rally, who in turn responded with campaign chants of “Take it Back!”
Another person, Drew, walked around after the convention wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. Drew, who would not give his last name for fear of retaliation by antifa, carried a sign that read “Trump. More winning for the world. Vote red wave.”
“I’m an Independent. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, so both parties have to work for my vote,” Drew said. “Trump stepped up and went and solved a problem that Bush, Hillary and Obama couldn’t solve.”
In his speech, Obama said he wants to reach out to those who aren’t just “true blue die-hard Democrats.” He emphasized the need for people to organize around issues affecting their community and the nation as a whole and called on constituents to engage in the democratic process by casting a ballot in the November vote.
“The biggest threat to our democracy … is not one individual, it is not one big super PAC billionaire,” Obama said. “It is apathy, it is indifference, it is us not doing what we are supposed to do.”
Briggetta Pierrot contributed to this article.