Primary Results Indicate Republicans Could Flip 6 California Districts

March 5, 2020 Updated: March 6, 2020

Republicans could flip six congressional seats in California in November, based on primary results. GOP candidates in four additional districts showed competitive results.

Democrats, on the other hand, don’t seem to have an easy path open to even one seat currently held by a Republican.

California as a whole leans left, with Democrats holding 45 of the 53 congressional districts (two are vacant). The March 3 primary results, however, suggest the GOP may heal its losses from the 2018 midterms, where Democrats flipped seven seats.

The state holds “jungle primaries,” which means both Democrats and Republicans show up on the same ballot, and the two candidates with the most votes face each other in the general election.

Voters who didn’t get their primary pick could still be generally expected to go for the winning candidate of their party. Thus, by adding up the votes for all Democrats and all Republicans on the ballot, one can get a rough idea of how many voters may show up for the candidate of each party in the general election.

In addition, there was only one statewide measure on the ballot this time—one for bonds to fund public school facilities (voted down). That means Democrats may have had a stronger motivation to show up, since they were deciding on their presidential candidate, while the Republican presidential primary was a largely symbolic exercise of confirming President Donald Trump as the nominee of choice. Trump received 92.5 percent of the vote.

District 10

The 10th district, spanning northern San Joaquin Valley east of San Jose, flipped blue in 2018, but seems ready to swing back. The incumbent, Josh Harder, won the primary with 39.8 percent, while the GOP frontrunner, Ted Howze, finished with 37.5 percent. However, when adding the votes for all the Democrats on the ballot, they garnered less than 45 percent of the vote. Republicans claimed the majority with 55.

District 21

The 21st district, just south of the 10th, is a similar story. Democrat T.J. Cox unseated incumbent Republican David Valadao in 2018. But Valadao came back and won the March 3 primary with 53.1 percent. Cox only scored 36.1 percent while 8.3 percent went to the other Democrat on the ticket, Ricardo De La Fuente. There was a second Republican in the race as well, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, who scored 2.5 percent.

District 25

A bit further south lies the 25th district, offering a crowded primary of six Democrats, six Republicans, and one independent competing for the seat vacated by Katie Hill—the Democrat who flipped the seat in 2018, but resigned in November amid an ethics probe after photos were leaked to the media of her intimate relations with a former campaign staffer.

Some names of media prominence also joined the race: George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign aide implicated in the Russia investigation, and Cenk Uygur, co-founder of the progressive news and opinion show “The Young Turks.”

In the end, Democrat Christy Smith finished first with 29.8 percent of the vote. She will face off with Republican Mike Garcia, who garnered 24.6 percent. When all the votes are added up, Republicans received 52 percent and Democrats 46.5 percent.

District 39

The 39th district covers about a dozen neighborhoods east of Los Angeles. After the 2018 retirement of Republican Rep. Ed Royce, Democrat Gil Cisneros narrowly won it in the midterm race against Republican Young Kim. Kim came back on March 3 to win the primary with 50.7 percent against Cisneros’s 44.4 percent. Independent Steve Cox garnered 4.9 percent.

District 45

The 45th district in Orange County is also among those flipped blue in 2018. The incumbent, Democrat Katie Porter, easily won the primary with 48.5 percent over Republican Greg Raths’s 18.8 percent. But the GOP vote was split among six contenders; added up, they had 51.5 percent.

District 48

The 48th district, also in Orange County, stretches along the coast south of Los Angeles. Democrat Harley Rouda won it in 2018, unseating veteran GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. Rouda led the primary with 44 percent. The Republican vote was split among four candidates, with Michelle Steel getting the most at 36.6 percent. Added up, Republicans had 53.3 percent.

Close Races

In the 7th, 9th, 24th, and 49th districts, Democrats received majorities, but narrow ones, spanning from 53.5 percent in the 9th to 52.1 in the 7th.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly characterized Republican position in the races for the 7th, 9th, 24th, and 49th districts. GOP candidates in those districts showed competitive primary results.

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