Nancy Pelosi woke up to bad news as the results of the California congressional races trickled in, suggesting a 9 seat flip, and offering the first real indicator that her gavel is seriously at risk.
While the Super Tuesday primary results gave establishment Democrats hope that Joe Biden can hold off the socialist Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, as usual the real story wasn’t splashed on the front pages of the Washington Post or hyped by talking heads on MSNBC.
NOQreport: While Democrat presidential candidates did battle, California and several other states were also holding primary elections for lower offices. There were some good storylines in high-profile Senate races that will supplement Biden vs. Sanders talk in the news cycle, but the part you likely won’t hear much about was California’s primary for all 54 congressional seats.
Why won’t you hear about it elsewhere? Because nine Democratic seats can clearly be flipped and the one Republican seat in jeopardy seems poised to stay red.
This wasn’t the news the DNC wanted to hear. It’s definitely not the news Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wanted to hear as it’s the first real indicator that her gavel is at risk.
Keep two things in mind. First, these aren’t nine seats that are deemed “in play” through some election miracle. These are nine seats currently held by Democrats where Republicans have the upper hand based on analysis of Tuesday’s primary votes. Second—and this is very important to understand—with only one statewide ballot measure, the main draw was the Democratic presidential primary in which Republicans may not vote. That means that even without the draw of a presidential primary choice, nine seats showed Republicans either within striking distance or outright beating Democrats.
The “jungle primary” system for congressional seats means everyone gets the same ballot choices. The top two finishers in the primary will go head-to-head in the general election. Based on these criteria, a shocking number of Democratic seats are now in jeopardy in November. Let’s break them down one-by-one.
98% of precincts reporting
|Ami Bera (Dem) ●||44.5%||37,120|
|Buzz Patterson (GOP)||38.9%||32,410|
|Jon Ivy (GOP)||7.8%||6,488|
|Jeff Burdick (Dem)||6.6%||5,524|
|Chris Richardson (Grn)||2.3%||1,892|
Incumbent Democrat Ami Bera had no trouble beating the other Democrat nor the Green Party candidate, but Republicans Buzz Patterson and Jon Ivy combined to beat him. Though they combine for 46.7% of the vote, the presidential primary boost Bera received did not give him the significant lead he would have hoped for as a Sacramento incumbent.
Patterson, a former carrier of the “nuclear football” for President Clinton, is an outspoken conservative and former Air Force Lt. Colonel. If he can get some wind on his back, he has a strong chance of flipping the seat and beating the incumbent.
58% of precincts reporting
|Josh Harder (Dem) ●||38.9%||22,584|
|Ted Howze (GOP)||38.2%||22,179|
|Bob Elliott (GOP)||14.7%||8,536|
|Marla Livengood (GOP)||3.4%||1,981|
|Mike Barkley (Dem)||3.0%||1,712|
|Ryan Blevins (Dem)||1.9%||1,130|
At the time of this article there was only 58% reported, but incumbent Democrat Josh Harder is only at 38.9%, barely edging ahead of Republican Ted Howze. Republicans combined for 56.3% of the vote.
92% of precincts reporting
|Kevin Cookingham (GOP)||38.5%||26,129|
|Jim Costa (Dem) ●||37.5%||25,401|
|Esmeralda Soria (Dem)||18.4%||12,455|
|Kimberly Williams (Dem)||5.6%||3,820|
This was an unusual primary in which only one Republican ran. But that Republican, Kevin Cookingham, is in the lead. Granted, Democrats have the lion’s share of the total votes, but incumbent Democrat Jim Costa is clearly in trouble with his own base; this is the first time he’s faced other Democrats for his 16th district seat. It’s also the only time he’s come in second in the primary.
86% of precincts reporting
|David Valadao (GOP)||54.1%||21,577|
|TJ Cox (Dem) ●||35.3%||14,098|
|Ricardo De La Fuente (Dem)||7.8%||3,129|
|Roque De La Fuente (GOP)||2.7%||1,091|
Republican David Valadao narrowly lost his seat in 2018 to Democrat TJ Cox. He wants his seat back, and if the primary is any indicator he’s poised to do just that. He easily defeated the field of Cox plus a Republican and Democrat (oddly both named De La Fuente).
In a strange twist, Ricardo De La Fuente also won a primary… in Texas. He was running for congressional seats in two states. That’s something to unpack in the future. For now, Valadao is the story as he is in good shape going into the general election.
87% of precincts reporting
|Salud Carbajal (Dem) ●||51.8%||74,099|
|Andy Caldwell (GOP)||44.5%||63,602|
|Kenneth Young (NPP)||3.7%||5,343|
The last two elections, Democrat Salud Carbajal has easily won CA-24, defeating his opponent by over 17-points in 2018. But he wasn’t facing Republican Andy Caldwell before and this primary shows that Caldwell is within striking distance. Had there been a Republican presidential primary, he may have even overtaken the incumbent.
Now, he has until November to prove to voters that he should win the seat.
55% of precincts reporting
|Christy Smith (Dem)||30.2%||19,423|
|Mike Garcia (GOP)||27.4%||17,620|
|Steve Knight (GOP)||20.4%||13,136|
|Cenk Uygur (Dem)||4.8%||3,066|
|David Lozano (GOP)||3.9%||2,501|
|Getro Elize (Dem)||3.0%||1,910|
|Anibal Valdez-Ortega (Dem)||2.6%||1,645|
|George Papadopoulos (GOP)||2.2%||1,421|
|Robert Cooper (Dem)||2.0%||1,292|
|Otis Cooper (NPP)||1.2%||770|
|Christopher Smith (Dem)||1.0%||640|
|Other Candidates (undefined)||1.3%||803|
Ah, the 25th district. This is a mess. Vacated by disgraced Congresswoman Katie Hill, the former red seat flipped in 2018. Now, a dozen candidates, including high-profile names like George Papadopoulos and Cenk Uygur, are trying to grab it.
But it was Democrat Christy Smith and Republican Mike Garcia who popped in at #1 and #2. With 55% of the vote in, Republicans combine for 53%. It’s looking strong to be flipped back to red in November.
83% of precincts reporting
|Young Kim (GOP)||52.4%||48,345|
|Gil Cisneros (Dem) ●||42.6%||39,270|
|Steve Cox (NPP)||5.0%||4,585|
This one should be a no-brainer, a correction from a horrible 2018 flip that turned the seat blue. It’s also a rematch of 2018, only this time Republican Young Kim is in the driver’s seat.
100% of precincts reporting
|Katie Porter (Dem) ●||48.1%||62,552|
|Greg Raths (GOP)||18.9%||24,582|
|Don Sedgwick (GOP)||13.9%||18,002|
|Peggy Huang (GOP)||11.3%||14,692|
|Lisa Sparks (GOP)||4.2%||5,426|
|Christopher Gonzales (GOP)||2.5%||3,278|
|Rhonda Furin (GOP)||1.1%||1,399|
The 45th district is another casualty of the so-called “blue wave” of 2018 with Elizabeth Warren acolyte Katie Porter narrowly winning the seat. She faced six Republicans in the primary, and while she won handily, she didn’t get to 50% with Republicans combining for 51.9%. Now, Greg Raths will face her in the general election. If Republicans unite behind him, Congresswoman Porter will have just one term in DC.
100% of precincts reporting
|Harley Rouda (Dem) ●||43.7%||56,943|
|Michelle Steel (GOP)||36.7%||47,822|
|Brian Burley (GOP)||12.8%||16,654|
|Richard Mata (AIP)||2.7%||3,546|
|John Schuesler (GOP)||2.6%||3,389|
|James Griffin (GOP)||1.4%||1,826|
Like the 45th district, the 48th featured a single-term incumbent Democrat who took a ride on the 2018 “blue wave” to win a traditionally red seat. But he’ll be facing Michelle Steel in the general election with more than 10-points to make up against Republicans.
62% of precincts reporting
|Ammar Campa-Najjar (Dem)||34.4%||38,648|
|Darrell Issa (GOP)||24.7%||27,777|
|Carl DeMaio (GOP)||21.1%||23,711|
|Brian Jones (GOP)||10.9%||12,261|
|Marisa Calderon (Dem)||5.1%||5,742|
|Nathan Wilkins (GOP)||2.0%||2,294|
|Other Candidates (undefined)||1.8%||2,071|
This was the race to watch in California, the one Democrats are hoping to flip following the resignation of Duncan Hunter in January. Two strong, local Republicans were competing for the second slot to face Ammar Campa-Najjar. At the time of this article, it’s unclear whether Darrell Issa or Carl DeMaio will make it to the general election.
Whichever one does will have the upper hand as Democrats could not combine for 40% of the primary vote.
It’s official. The House is up for grabs. There are nine seats held by Democrats in trouble in radical progressive California while all of the Republican seats are safe. Nancy Pelosi’s days with the gavel appear to be limited. Again.
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