With nearly every precinct counted in Orange County, Democrats are growing confident of getting candidates into every competitive congressional district in southern California — preventing a “lockout” that the national party had spent millions of dollars to prevent.
In California’s 39th, 48th and 49th congressional districts, Democrats at least ended the night in second place, which would set up two-party elections in November. In the 39th, lottery winner and Navy veteran Gil Cisneros led a Republican candidate in the battle for the No. 2 spot by more than 3,000 votes. In Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s 48th, two Democrats — Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda — were battling for second place, both roughly 1,000 votes ahead of Republican Scott Baugh. And in the 49th, Democrats Mike Levin, Sara Jacobs and Doug Applegate were more than 3,000 votes ahead of the nearest Republican.
By midnight in California, none of the races had been called; several candidates told voters at their election night parties to expect results in the morning. Rohrabacher had advanced to the runoff, as had Republicans Young Kim in the 39th district and Diane Harkey in the 49th district.
But as more Election Day ballots were added to the count, Democrats saw evidence that they had averted disaster. Cisneros, who was backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — and who benefited from an 11th-hour truce with another wealthy candidate — began the night in a close race with a Republican who ran as a Trump ally. His lead grew as votes were counted in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, where Democrats cut into what had been an enormous Republican advantage in early votes.
In the 48th district, DCCC-backed Harley Rouda ran fourth in early votes but trailed only Rohrabacher in votes cast closer to Election Day — a period when the DCCC had been on the airwaves, trumpeting its endorsement. Shortly before 1 a.m. local time, as he passed Keirstead into second place, he declared victory even though his fellow Democrat had not admitted defeat.
“I know that all of us who are dedicated to defeating Dana Rohrabacher in the fall will unite together to beat him in November,” Rouda said in a statement.
In the 49th district, while 139 precincts in San Diego County remained to be counted, Republicans were running more than 7,000 votes behind the top Democratic vote-getter, Mike Levin. The Associated Press had made no calls in the three races, but Democrats expected the leads to hold as late-arriving ballots were added.
By Wednesday morning, the party was most worried about a lockout in the 10th Congressional District, in the Central Valley, where investor Josh Harder was clinging to second place by less than 1,000 votes. That race had combined all of the DCCC’s danger signs — a second credible Democrat (Michael Eggman, who had run and lost the district twice), two female candidates, and a Republican who entered the race late and attracted some voters unhappy with Repulican Rep. Jeff Denham over his support for immigration reform. The races in the 10th and 48th districts could well end in recounts, or delayed calls after days or weeks of late-counted ballots.