Democrats avoided being locked out of several critical House races following primary elections in California, leaving the party in a better position to challenge Republican control of the House.
But Republicans avoided down-ballot disaster when the party’s candidate for governor advanced to the general election.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom finished first in the primary to succeed term-limited Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, while Republican businessman John Cox surged to second place to advance to the general election, beating out another Democrat: former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Republicans were deeply concerned of down-ballot impacts if there was no Republican candidate on the ballot for statewide office. Cox will likely be the only Republican running for statewide office in California this year, as incumbent Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein will face another Democrat in the general election: state Senator Kevin de León.
Representative Jeff Denham, running for a fourth term in an area of the Central Valley centered around the city of Modesto, will face Democratic venture capitalist Josh Harder. Even though Hillary Clinton won the district by three points, Denham won reelection by over three percent. Despite the advantages of incumbency, the district has a Cook PVI rating of even, leaving Denham a prime target for Democrats.
Democrats appear to have avoided a lock-out in the campaign to challenge incumbent Republican Steve Knight. Bryan Caforio, a lawyer who also ran in 2016, and Katie Hill, who runs a homeless services nonprofit and was endorsed by pro-abortion organizations like EMILY’s List, are running neck-in-neck to place second in a district that stretches from northern Los Angeles County to Ventura County. Knight, who defeated Caforio by over seven percent in 2016, will face a tough campaign in a district Clinton carried by a similar margin.
National Republicans hoping for a Democratic lock-out in the campaign to replace retiring Representative Ed Royce are disappointed after Gil Cisneros, a millionaire lottery winner, edged out the rest of the crowded field to take second place. He will face former Assemblywoman Young Kim in an Orange County-based district Clinton carried by eight percent. The campaign between Cisneros and his chief Democratic rival, Andy Thorburn, became so heated that national Democrats were forced to intervene and broker a “peace agreement.”
While Representative Mimi Walters won re-election by over seventeen percent in 2016, Hillary Clinton carried her district by over five percent, making her a prime target for Democrats, who successfully avoided another lock-out with former UC Irvine law professor Katie Porter poised to take second place.
Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher, running for re-election in an Orange County-based district Clinton won by just under two percent, will likely face Democratic businessman Harley Rouda, who is locked in a tight race for second place against another Democrat: scientist Hans Keirstead. Rouda was the preferred candidate of the national party establishment, having been endorsed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), while Keirstead was endorsed by the state party.
What began as a crowded field to replace retiring Representative Darrell Issa appears to have coalesced behind top vote-getter Dianne Harkey, a Republican member of the Board of Equalization, and Democratic environmental lawyer Mike Levin. Levin beat out several other Democrats, including Doug Applegate, who came within 1,600 votes of unseating Issa in 2016. Clinton carried the San Diego-based district by almost eight points, making the 49th district a prime target for Democrats.