Troubled California Races Could Overturn U.S. Home Control

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LOS ANGELES (TBEN) — The outcome in a series of closely aligned California US House races that could play control of the room remained uncertain Friday as millions of ballots went uncounted in the nation’s most populous state.

More than a dozen races in the state remained in play, though only a handful were seen as tight enough to go either way. It takes 218 seats to control the House. Republicans had long blocked 211, while Democrats claimed 200.

It could take days or even weeks to determine who gets the hammer next year.

Should Democrats fail to protect their slim majority, Bakersfield Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy would line up to replace San Francisco Chairman Nancy Pelosi.

In California, the main battlefields are Orange County—a sprawling outlying area southeast of Los Angeles that was once a GOP stronghold but has become increasingly diverse and democratic—and the Central Valley, a stretch inland that is sometimes referred to as the country’s salad bowl for its agricultural production.

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One of the most exciting races matched Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, against Republican Scott Baugh, a former lawmaker, in an Orange County district roughly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

The results showed that Porter extended her small lead to 4,555 votes, or 51.2% to 48.8% for Baugh. Previously, Porter had about 3,000 votes.

In another close contest in a Democratic-oriented district north of Los Angeles, Republican US Representative Mike Garcia saw his comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Christy Smith dwindle slightly. His margin remained at 12 points, 56% to 44%.

Democrats have long dominated the California congressional delegation, which will drop to 52 seats next year, from 53 seats, as population growth has stalled, though it remains the largest delegation in Congress.

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In the current term, Republicans have only 11 of the 53 seats in the strongly Democratic state.

Because the tally was incomplete, Republicans claimed six races so far and led in six others.

Democrats took victories in 30 seats and led in 10 other contests. In two of those races, only Democrats were on the ballot, meaning the party will retain control of those seats.

But a lot of uncertainty remained. As of Thursday, nearly 5 million ballots remained uncounted statewide.

East of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert in charge after falling behind Democrat Will Rollins. With about half the votes counted, Calvert had a 1-point lead. Calvert, first elected in 1992, is the longest-serving Republican in the California congressional delegation.

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In Central Valley’s 22nd district, where about half of the votes have been counted, an update showed Democrat Rudy Salas taking the lead from Republican Representative David Valadao, who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump. The two are divided by 5 points, having previously held a lead of more than 8 points.

In a competitive district anchored in San Diego County, Democratic Rep. Mike Levin slightly grow his lead against Republican businessman Brian Maryott. Levin has a margin of 4 points, with about two-thirds of the vote.

President Joe Biden was in the district in the final days of the campaign hoping to increase Levin’s chances.

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Follow the TBEN’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play during the midterm exams.