California Democrats claimed critical spots in the November general election as they try to begin a “blue wave” of replacing Republican congressional representatives in key Southland districts.

In the race to replace retiring Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, in the 39th Congressional District, Republican Young Kim, a former assemblywoman who had Royce’s endorsement, led the way in a 17-candidate field to reach the November runoff. But she will square off with Democrat Gil Cisneros, an education advocate who won a record $266 million in the Mega Millions lottery in 2010.

Some Democratic Party officials had expressed concern that the district was among those with too many Democrats filing to run, thus splitting the vote and potentially allowing Republicans to take the top two places and leave the Democrats without a candidate in the November general election.

The top two candidates in all state and federal races advance to the general election, regardless of party.

The district includes portions of eastern Los Angeles County, northern Orange County and Chino Hills and a portion of Chino in southwestern San Bernardino County.

Further south, where 16 candidates were vying to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Darrell Issa, R-Vista, in the 49th Congressional District, former Assemblywoman Diane Harkey led the way for Republicans, likely helped by Issa’s endorsement, and will advance to November’s general election.

Environmental attorney and former Orange County Democratic Party official Mike Levin will challenge Harkey. He outlasted challenges by two fellow Democrats — 29-year-old Sara Jacobs, who conducted foreign affairs work during the Obama Administration, and retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, who nearly defeated Issa in 2016.

The seat straddles Orange and San Diego counties, stretching from Dana Point to La Jolla, and Democrats and Republicans have been pouring money in the race, making it one of the most expensive congressional races in the country.

Democrats are also targeting the 48th Congressional District seat of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, who earned about 30 percent of Tuesday’s vote — less of a lead than he’d like ahead of Democratic challengers and opponents from his own party.

With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, two Democrats — biologist Hans Keirstead, who was endorsed by the California Democratic Party, and businessman Harley Rouda — were separated by only 73 votes, with Rouda in the lead. Despite the narrow margin, Rouda proclaimed victory.

“We have truly built a movement for change here in the 48th Congressional District and I look forward to defeating Dana Rohrabacher and restoring honesty and integrity to this office,” Rouda said.

However, late Wednesday afternoon, an updated vote tally released by the Orange County Registrar’s Office and the Secretary of State’s Office flipped the result, putting Keirstead in the lead by 45 votes. It was unclear how many ballots in the district still need to be counted.

Speaking to his supporters in Orange County, Rohrabacher appeared unconcerned about his 30 percent showing as he proclaimed victory.

“Orange County, we are taking back America right here,” he said.

Rohrabacher has faced questions in recent months about his connections with people tied to the Kremlin, leaving him open to a challenge by fellow Republican Scott Baugh and the possibility that voters will be choosing between two Republicans in the November general election.

Another closely watched race is in northern Los Angeles County, where Steve Knight, R-Lancaster, is looking for a third term in the 25th Congressional District, which covers the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys.

Knight had broad support and easily cruised to the November runoff. He will be challenged by Democrat Katie Hill, the executive director and deputy CEO of the homeless services nonprofit organization PATH.

Nationwide, Democrats need to flip 23 congressional seats to re-take control of the House. All 53 of California’s congressional seats were on Tuesday’s ballot.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *