Political News

Republican lawmakers point to positive signs after California election night

Posted June 6, 2018 12:55 p.m. EDT

— Both parties were touting a good night in California a day after the so-called "jungle primaries," where Republicans and Democrats were able to advance candidates to the general election in several key districts.

California's unusual primary puts all candidates on one ballot and allows the top two finishers in a race -- regardless of the party -- to advance.

Democrats, hoping for a blue wave in November, feared they may not break into the top two spots in several Republican-held districts, but it appeared Wednesday they managed to advance in multiple races, with others still too close to call.

Meanwhile, Republicans in districts won by Hillary Clinton, also managed to stay on the November ballot in key districts as well, in addition to securing a general election spot in the gubernatorial race.

Even though some races were too close to call, Ryan Costello, a retiring Pennsylvania Republican, came out of the GOP conference this morning saying his party was optimistic at where they stood for the general election.

"Democrats were expecting one result out of California, but actually results out of California were more positive for Republicans than anything else," he told reporters Wednesday. "Who expected the no. 2 gubernatorial candidate to be Republican, and that the Democrats thought they were going to fill the top two spots in some of those seats. They didn't."

What Tuesday's primaries set up, though, was a test of Republican power to back up the Trump administration. Democratic operatives see the race for the House as the best opportunity they have to rebuke the President before the 2020 election and are hellbent on flipping seats from red-to-blue.

There are currently seven Republican lawmakers -- from Rep. Jeff Denham in the northern San Joaquin Valley to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in Southern California -- who occupy House seats in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pointed to a recall election in which Republican assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang was elected to the state Senate by a landslide, while the incumbent Democrat, Josh Newman, was ousted after voting for a 12-cents-per-gallon gas tax.

"A Democrat just got recalled in California, a Republican got elected. It was over a simple issue," McCarthy said in a news conference on Capitol Hill.

McCarthy, who placed first in his own California primary Tuesday night, went on to highlight that in November, voters will have the option to repeal the gas tax in a ballot initiative -- a move that Republicans see as a winning issue for GOP candidates across the state this fall.

Denham, who faced a tough primary fight in the 10th District, told CNN last night's results were good for his party -- even though he didn't get the majority of the vote, having been at the top with 37.7%.

When asked whether Republicans are worried they'll lose its majority in November, Denham said no.

"Across the state we performed very well," he said. "Republicans ended up winning in all of the seven seats they were trying to target ... my numbers are well above we thought they would be and the Republican almost made it in the general election in my race as well, so I'd say Republicans that were very motivated given tax cuts and the economy ... that's something that's playing well in my community."

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Stivers told reporters Denham lost votes because some Republicans supported his Republican competition, Ted Howze, who got 14.4% of the vote.

"The Democrats just spent $10 million trying to shut us out and they didn't shut us out," he told reporters. "I think there were a lot of Jeff's friends trying to help get the second Republican through. I'm not worried about Jeff at all."

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told CNN Wednesday that taking over GOP districts in California, especially in the primary, was always going to be a challenge.

"We never said that this would be easy," he said, touting the DCCC's efforts to invest early and big in the state. "This is just the first part of what's going to be an important aspect of being able to win the House back. So I'm really encouraged."

"We knew would have to fight for every inch, and we knew we would have to continue to do that," he added.

Despite all the remarks from Republicans, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats did well on Tuesday night.

"From the heartland of America to the coasts, American voters sent the Republican Majority a powerful message of rejection of the GOP's relentless efforts to destroy health care and reward the special interests," she said in a statement. "California has advanced an extraordinary set of battle-tested and diverse Democrats to the November ballot."