‘It is everywhere.’ Tight California Congressional Races Are Still Too Close To Mention

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Eleven competitive congressional races in California that could ultimately determine the balance of power in the House were still too close to mention Wednesday.

Congressional campaigns on both sides of the aisle expressed cautious optimism as election officials continue to count votes, a process that could take weeks.

With the prospect of a House majority at stake, the entire nation could be kept in suspense over California’s notoriously sluggish tally — a scenario few expected in the run-up to Election Day.

“I think I’m surprised it’s kind of coming to California,” said Paul Mitchell, vice president of political data analytics firm PDI. “I expected Republicans to get 10 to 12 seats in the House, and that’s before they were even in California.”

In the 41st congressional district, Democrat Will Rollins Representative Ken Calvert — the longest-serving GOP member of California’s congressional delegation — was over 7,500 votes in favor, with just 37% of the vote counted as of Wednesday.

Calvert’s past opposition to gay rights may have hurt him in Coachella Valley’s large LGBTQ community, Mitchell said, which could be one reason the early results leaned toward Rollins, who is gay.

Rollins remains confident, saying in an interview with The Times that “we feel like we’re going to win this one.”

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“There is still a long way to go and we know it will be close, but this is a pretty powerful lead,” he said.

Calvert’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

On Tuesday, there was talk of an impending national “red wave” at the Orange County nightclub, where GOP congressional hopeful Scott Baugh and others gathered to await the election results.

The mood in the crowded club plummeted as the results started rolling in, but Baugh, who is challenging Democratic Representative Katie Porter to represent Orange County’s 47th congressional district, remained confident.

“Early return to California, as you know, always favors Democrats. How many of you voted on Election Day?” he asked the crowd as hands shot up. “You’re going to reverse what the results are now and you’re going to give us the lead by midnight.”

At midnight, Baugh Porter followed with less than 1,000 votes. Less than a day later, Porter’s lead had grown slightly to about 1,500 votes.

On Wednesday, the mood in Porter’s camp was one of cautious optimism. In 2018, it took 11 days for the race between Porter and Republican Mimi Walters to be called off.

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“There are still tens of thousands of ballots to be counted, and our campaign respects Orange County voters and will patiently wait for the results,” said campaign spokesman Lindsay Reilly.

The popularity of mailed ballots means that results in many states, including California, can often take longer than voters typically expect, said Paul Gronke, professor of political science and director of the Elections and Voting Information Center at Reed College in Portland, Ore. .

“It will make it particularly difficult this year with results coming in at different rates, and it will open a window for people to sue for felony,” he said.

Still, he added, just because the vote takes longer to count doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

In Central Valley’s 22nd district, Republican Representative David Valadao was about 3,300 votes ahead of Democratic Councilman Rudy Salas, with just over a third of the votes counted.

In 2018, publications across the state declared Valadao the winner in his bid for re-election against his Democratic challenger. However, the vote count continued for the rest of November and Valadao conceded the race in early December.

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Valadao acknowledged that his campaign “always knew this race was going to be tight”, but he is hopeful of an early return. Salas said he is patiently waiting for the votes to be counted.

The variables and caveats to the Golden State intermediate races are many, making predictions difficult. The reversal of traditional voting methods during the pandemic, uncertainty about the state of democracy and even wet weather on Election Day could be factors.

Heavy rain over the weekend and on Election Day may have pushed some voters to send in ballots at the last minute rather than brave the elements to vote in person, Mitchell said.

Recently, more Republicans voted in person on Election Day as conspiracy theories circulated by former President Trump and others have made them suspicious of ballots. And since the pandemic, more Democrats have started voting by mail. Historically it was the other way around.

The uncertainty and breaking the norm is enough to make Mitchell put his hands in the air.

“It’s everywhere,” he said. “We don’t know who voted and to what extent.”

Times researcher Jennifer Arcand contributed to this report