The Big Winners and the Races Hanging in the Balance
Posted November 7, 2018 11:30 a.m. EST
As we warned — it was indeed a long night in California.
The two top statewide races were called early for Democrats, with Gavin Newsom ascending to the governor’s mansion and Dianne Feinstein easily winning re-election to the Senate.
But when the clock struck midnight, nearly every contested congressional race was still undecided.
So here’s what we know — and what we don’t.
Newsom is likely to intensify the fight between the state and the Trump administration on climate change, immigration and health care. But he is also tasked with managing crises at home that have deeply frustrated Californians, including homelessness and extreme income inequality.
In a banner year for challengers and diversity, Kevin de León, the former Democratic leader of the state Senate, never amounted to a formidable threat to Feinstein. But watch de León’s next moves closely — despite the loss, he remains one of the most prominent Latino political leaders.
And for all the money and attention Democrats lavished on newly competitive races in the state, there was no decisive wave cresting.
The clearest Democratic pickup appeared to come in the 49th District, which takes in southern Orange County and northern San Diego, where longtime Rep. Darrell Issa announced plans to retire. Mike Levin, a Democrat and an environmental lawyer, held a 5-point margin over Diane Harkey, a Republican and former state assemblywoman.
The Democrats may also have captured a once-unthinkable win in coastal Orange County: Longtime Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is trailing Democrat Harley Rouda, a real estate executive and a former Republican.
Young Kim, a Korean-American Republican, looked as if she would beat Democrat Gil Cisneros in the 39th District, which includes the inland suburbs of Los Angeles and northern Orange County. The results will undoubtedly be parsed for what they say about Asian-American political influence in the region. In Orange County’s 45th District, just a few thousand votes favored Rep. Mimi Walters over her Democratic challenger, Katie Porter, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine.
Rep. Duncan Hunter appeared set to win re-election despite being under federal indictment after being accused of using nearly a quarter of a million dollars in campaign funds for personal expenses. His campaign came under fire for racist messaging after he called Ammar Campa-Najjar, his Latino-Arab opponent, a national security threat and a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer.
In the conservative-leaning Central Valley, Democrats saw hope in the 10th Congressional District, where just hundreds of votes separated Rep. Jeff Denham and Josh Harder, the Democratic challenger. Republicans fared better in other parts of the Central Valley: Reps. Devin Nunes and David Valadao each won re-election, and what worked in these agriculture-heavy districts with large Latino populations could be a guide for other inland parts of the state.
However, Democrat Katie Hill was leading Republican incumbent Steve Knight in the 25th District in the northern suburbs near Los Angeles, with more counting to be done.