Elected to the United States House in 2014 from a traditionally Republican stronghold in Southern California, Mimi Walters used her seats on influential committees to combat sex trafficking, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, combat opioid addiction, and lower taxes. Having previously worked to expand opportunities for Republican women back home, Walters served in GOP leadership during both of her terms in Congress. “For many of our mothers, and most certainly for our grandmothers, women were limited to the most grassroots of participation,” she said. “It is very different for many women today—we don’t just campaign for someone else. We run for office or run campaigns, and we frequently win.”1
Mimi Walters was born Marian E. Krogius on May 14, 1962, in Pasadena, California, the daughter of Tristan Krogius, a former U.S. Marine and attorney, and grew up with five siblings. Walters graduated from St. Catherine of Siena Parish School in Laguna Beach, California, then earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1984. After college Walters worked as a stockbroker, sales representative, and business executive. While working in finance, she met and married David Walters. The couple has four children.2
In the early 1990s, Walters left the finance world to start a family. She became active in community affairs, and in 1994 cofounded the California Women’s Leadership Association, a support group for Republican women for southern Orange County. Her work at the grassroots led to a position with the town of Laguna Niguel’s finance committee, and eventually an appointment to fill a vacancy on Laguna Niguel’s city council. In 1996 Walters won a seat on the council in her own right, where she served for eight years. She was appointed mayor in 2000. Five years later, Walters served in the California state assembly for a single term. She won election to the California senate in 2008 and served for seven years. Walters ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 2010.3
When Southern California Representative John Campbell announced his retirement from Congress in 2013, Walters decided to run for the seat. “Congressional seats don’t open up often,” Walters said. “Having the opportunity to represent the people of Orange County on a national level is a lifelong dream.”4 Walters ran on a campaign platform of what she called “fiscal responsibility, less intrusive government and property rights.”5 The district comprised central and southern Orange County and parts of neighboring counties. The Orange County area had been solidly Republican since Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial run in 1967, and over the years had become a well-known support base for local and national Republicans due to an active grassroots network.6
After defeating three other candidates in the Republican primary, Walters faced Drew Leavens, a mental health professional and entrepreneur in the general election. She won convincingly with 65 percent of the vote in the 2014 midterm elections. Walters was part of a large GOP class that included a number of women and minorities including Republicans Ludmya Bourdeau (Mia) Love of Utah and William Ballard Hurd of Texas. Walters won re-election in 2016 with 58 percent of the vote.7
In her first term during the 114th Congress (2015– 2017), Walters served on two powerful committees: Judiciary; and Transportation and Infrastructure. In the 115th Congress (2017–2019), Walters swapped her initial assignments for seats on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ethics Committee. Walters also had the ear of party leadership: in both the 114th and 115th Congresses, Walters was elected to represent the interests of first-and second-term lawmakers before House Republican leaders.8
An opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a major health care overhaul which passed in 2010, Walters sought to repeal the law and reform the health care system in America. In 2015 she sponsored a bill to repeal a $2,500 limitation on how much an employee can contribute to a flexible spending plan used to pay for health care.9 Walters also sought new ways to combat substance abuse, and submitted a bill to allow states to receive Medicaid payments to help treat patients in need of mental health services who also struggled with drug dependencies.10 “The vast majority of drug overdose deaths in Orange County are due to opioid abuse,” Walters said. “The IMD Care Act would … help those battling opioid addiction get the help they need to rebuild their lives.” Although the bill passed the House, it died in the Senate.11
During Walters’s time in the House, California experienced devastating and deadly wildfire seasons. In response, she worked to secure tax relief for victims of the wildfires, extending certain loan deadlines and suspending other restrictions on charitable contributions.12 Walters also supported the GOP’s major tax overhaul—the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017—which reduced rates for individuals and businesses, and eliminated the individual mandate penalty of the Affordable Care Act which taxed people without health care.13
On Capitol Hill, Walters worked to stop sex trafficking and submitted legislation that established statutory rights for survivors of sexual assault. Her Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016 covered the costs for forensic medical examinations and made it illegal for doctors to refuse to administer such exams. Her bill also required law enforcement to preserve sexual assault evidence collection kits for either 20 years or the maximum applicable statute. And finally, the bill required authorities to notify victims before destroying a collection kit. President Barack Obama signed her bill into law in October 2016. “Today, we have removed a substantial barrier that survivors of sexual assault faced in their pursuit of justice,” Walters said.14
Walters kept in touch with her constituents through a series of op-eds published in local newspapers on topics including the economy, national security, and environmental issues. But her district was also changing, and the traditional party makeup back home had started to shift. In 2016 her district split its vote, supporting both Walters for the House and Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton for President. While Walters supported President Donald J. Trump, she also noted that she won “37,000 more votes than President Trump. That means that people in the 45th District identify with the policies that I support and support me because I’m in line with what they believe in.”15
But in 2018 Walters faced a difficult re-election. She campaigned on a tax reform package that included a repeal of state gas taxes and her work against sex trafficking. Following California’s open primary where every candidate regardless of party appears on the same ballot, Walters faced Democrat Katie Porter, a law professor, in the general election. On Election Day, in a wave election that resulted in Democrats capturing the House majority, Walters lost to Porter who took 52 percent of the vote.16 After leaving the House, Walters returned to the private sector.17
1California Women’s Leadership Association, “The History of CWLA,” accessed 13 April 2020, http://www.cwla.us/our-story.
2“Mimi Walters,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov; “Marian E. Krogius,” California Birth Index, 1905–1995, Ancestry Library, accessed 7 October 2019, https://www. ancestrylibrary.com; “Marian E. Krogius,” U.S. School Yearbooks, 1900– 1999, accessed 7 October 2019, https://ancestrylibrary.com; “Mimi Walters Named Alumna of the Year 2019,” 23 May 2019, Orange County Catholic, https://occatholic.com/mimi-walters-named-alumna-of-the-year-2019/; Tristan Krogius, “Medal of Honor Winner’s Next Battle,” 21 December 2011, Orange County Register (Anaheim, CA), https://www.ocregister.com/2011/12/21/tristan-krogius-medal-of-honor-winners-next-battle/; Martin Wisckol, “Field Grows to Replace Campbell,” 9 September 2013, Orange County Register: B.
3Martin Wisckol, “County’s GOP Women Lead A National Charge,” 30 November 2014, Orange County Register: A; California Women’s Leadership Association, “The History of CWLA,” accessed 15 October 2019, https://www.cwla.us/our-story; California secretary of state, “Statement of Vote: November 2, 2010, General Election,” accessed 15 October 2019, https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/sov/2010-general/complete-sov.pdf.
4Martin Wisckcol, “Open House Seat Draws Diverse Field, But How Competitive?” 12 May 2014, Orange County Register, https://www.ocregister.com/2014/05/12/open-oc-house-seat-draws-diverse-field-but-how-competitive/.
5Bradley Zint, “Walters Announces Run for Congress,” 3 July 2013, Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA): n.p.
6Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001): 21–30, 269–273; Almanac of American Politics, 2016 (Arlington, VA: Columbia Books & Information Services, 2015): 297–298; Martin Wisckol, “Campbell Won’t Seek Re- Election,” 28 June 2013, Orange County Register: n.p.
7Matthew Fleming, “Congressional Races Heat Up As Election Approaches,” 23 October 2014, Orange County Register: n.p.; Wisckol, “County GOP Women Lead A National Charge”; California secretary of state, “Statewide Direct Primary Election—Statement of Vote, June 3, 2014,” accessed 15 October 2019, https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/sov/2014-primary/pdf/63-congress.pdf; Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present; Matthew Fleming, “State GOP Finds Appeal Among Women,” 20 September 2014, Orange County Register: n.p.; Alex Isenstadt, “GOP to Get Slightly More Diverse,” 6 November 2014, Politico, https://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/republicans-congress-leadership-112662.
8“California GOP; ICYMI: Mimi Walters Elected to House Leadership for 114th Congress,” 17 November 2014, Targeted New Service; Martin Wisckol, “Strategy Ties GOP Members to Trump; But in O.C., Longtime Incumbents Have Established Their Own Political Identities,” 5 June 2017, Chico Enterprise-Record (CA): 1; Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “After Victory Laps, Settling in As Rookies,” 12 November 2014, New York Times: A22; Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Women Members’ Committee Assignments (Standing, Joint, Select) in the U.S. House, 1917–Present.”
9FSA Act, H.R. 2207, 114th Cong. (2015).
10Individuals in Medicaid Deserve Care that is Appropriate and Responsible in its Execution Act, H.R. 5797, 115th Cong. (2018); Congressional Record, House, 114th Congress, 1st sess. (3 February 2015): H742; Congressional Record, House, 114th Congress, 1st sess. (23 October 2015): H7164; “Rep. Mimi Walters Votes to Repeal Obamacare,” official website of Representative Mimi Walters, press release, 3 February 2015, https://web. archive.org/web/20160907024936/https://walters.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-mimi-walters-votes-repeal-obamacare; “Rep. Walters Votes to Strip Core Provisions of Obamacare,” official website of Representative Mimi Walters, press release, 23 October 2015, https://web.archive.org/ web/20160907020921/https://walters.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-walters-votes-strip-core-provisions-obamacare.
11“House Passes Rep. Walters’ Bill to Expand Inpatient Opioid Treatment,” official website of Representative Mimi Walters, press release, 20 June 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20181222142421/https://walters.house.gov/ media-center/press-releases/house-passes-rep-walters-bill-expand-inpatientopioid- treatment.
12California Wildfire Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2017, H.R. 4397, 115th Cong. (2015); “Congresswoman Mimi Walters Introduces Bipartisan California Wildfire Relief Legislation,” official website of Representative Mimi Walters, press release, 15 November 2017, https://web.archive.org/ web/20181222154427/https://walters.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congresswoman-mimi-walters-introduces-bipartisan-california-wildfire.
13Congressional Record, House, 115th Cong., 1st sess. (16 November 2017): H9413; Congressional Record, House, 115th Cong., 1st sess. (20 December 2017): H10312.
14“Survivors’ Bill of Rights Signed Into Law,” official website of Representative Mimi Walters, press release, 7 October 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20181222192834/https://walters.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/survivors-bill-rights-signed-law; Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, H.R. 5578, 114th Cong. (2016); Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016, PL 114-236, 130 Stat. 966 (2016).
15Tony Saavedra, “The Fight’s On In 4 California Districts Where Republicans Represent People Who Voted For Hillary,” 6 February 2017, Mercury News (San Jose, CA), https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/06/the-fights-on-in-4-california-districts-where-republicans-represent-people-who-voted-for-hillary/; Angela Hart, “California Republicans Walking ‘Tough Tightrope’ on Trump Headed Into 2018,” 25 October 2017, Sacramento Bee: n.p.; Mark Z. Barabak, “A Blue Wave May Be Forming in West,” 11 January 2018, Los Angeles Times: A1; Rachael Bade, “A GOP Surprise: House Midterm Hope in California,” 14 May 2018, Politico, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/14/california-republicans-midterms-walters-584289.
16Susan Christian Goulding and Tony Saavedra, “Democratic Constituents Tell Walters She’s On Short Leash,” 9 February 2017, Orange County Register: n.p.; Tony Saavedra, “Mixed-District Blues,” 4 February 2017, Orange County Register: n.p.; John Wildermuth, “Republicans In State Gear Up For Costly Fight to Keep Seats,” 5 August 2017, San Francisco Chronicle: A1; Christine Mai-Duc, “GOP Adapts to New O.C.,” 19 October 2017, Los Angeles Times: B1; Martin Wisckol, “Democratic Challengers Welcome Chance vs. Walters,” 2 March 2018, Orange County Register: 4; Gabriel De Benedetti, “Orange Crush: Inside the GOP Struggle to Hold the Southern California Suburbs,” 11 March 2018, Politico, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/11/orange-county-republicans-congress-217231; Jordan Graham, “Candidates For House Offer Sharp Contrasts; Choice Between Mimi Walters and Katie Porter Likely to Come Down to Taxes and Health Care,” 25 October 2018, Orange County Register: A1; “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present”; John Harwood, “House Candidates in Critical California District Face Off on Trump, Taxes, and The Prospect of a Democratic Congress,” 8 September 2018, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/07/calif-house-candidates-mimi-walters-and-katie-porter-on-the-issues.html.
17Brooke Staggs, “A Year After, Former OC GOP Reps Remain Busy,” 24 November 2019, Orange County Register: 1.