Janice Hahn (Reed Saxon/AP Photo)

Hahn called the victory bittersweet, because of her mother’s death on the eve of her victory. She told the Associated Press that the loss of her mother “was devastating to me, so it was the strength of the thousands of volunteers who were campaigning for me that carried me across the finish line.”

Democrats were worried about losing this special election, held to replace former Rep. Jane Harman (D), even though a large majority of voters in the district are registered Democrats. Voter turnout in southern California in July is always going to be low (it was 22 percent Tuesday), and Huey poured nearly $900,000 of his own money into the race.

The evangelical direct-mail marketer shocked observers by making it into the race at all. California has just switched to “jungle primaries,” in which the top two vote-getters face off in the general regardless of party affiliation. In a district where Democrats have an 18-point registration advantage, it was a surprise to see a Republican make it into the runoff.

“Congresswoman-elect Hahn has earned the confidence of the voters of her district; tonight, she has the full congratulations of the entire House Democratic Caucus,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming her to Congress and to working with her to make progress for the American people.”

The congressional seat came open when Harman resigned to become head of a think tank. Both Huey and Hahn went negative early and often--with Huey tying Hahn to gang members, and Hahn accusing Huey of radical social views and scams against senior citizens.

Hahn’s victory means another special election to fill her city council seat. Firefighter Pat McOsker announced his candidacy last night.

While a Republican win here would have been seen as a coup for the GOP, special elections occur under such unique circumstances that they have little predictive power.

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