Democrats in California appeared poised Tuesday night to avoid getting shut out of key congressional races for the November election, the most pressing risk they faced as they seek to retake control of the House.
With most precincts reporting, Democrats seemed to have captured second place in the contests where the threat was most acute.
The party’s wide, boisterous field of candidates could have locked them out of multiple races because of the state’s unique primary, which advances the two candidates with the most votes regardless of party.
After a series of high-profile fights in which Rep. Devin Nunes gained national fame over the House’s investigation into Russian election meddling, the Republican incumbent collected 58% of the vote in California’s primary election with 97% of precincts reporting.
He will face Democrat Andrew Janz, a county prosecutor, who as of mid-May had raised almost $2 million as cash poured into his campaign from around the country from those who want to counter Nunes.
Janz, who collected 32% of the vote, will be running an uphill battle for Nunes' House seat in a district where registered Republican voters outnumber Democrats by 10 percentage points and Trump won with 51% of the vote in 2016. He has not been shy about employing mockery to get his anti-Trump message out: Late last year, Janz bought a highway billboard near Jimbo's Bar in Clovis depicting Nunes and Trump clad in diapers, with Russian President Vladimir Putin pulling them by leashes.
Two Democrats rushed to an early lead Tuesday to fill an open state Assembly seat in northern San Diego County previously held by Republican Rocky Chavez.
Democrats Tasha Boerner Horvath and Elizabeth Warren each held 25% of the vote, while six Republicans split the remainder of the ballots, with 35% of precincts reporting.
If they remained the top two finishers, Horvath and Warren would advance to the general election in November. The district had a safe 9-percentage-point advantage for the GOP when Chavez was first elected in 2012, but that has slowly eroded since. Both parties are even, each with 33% of registered voters, while 27% of voters list no party preference.
Northern California voters have recalled a judge from office after he sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexual assault to a short jail sentence instead of prison.
Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky was targeted for recall in June 2016 shortly after he sentenced Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a young woman outside a fraternity house on campus. Prosecutors argued for a 7-year prison sentence.
The case gained national prominence after the victim read an eloquent statement in court before Turner's sentence. The statement circulated widely online and was read on the floor of the U.S. Capitol during a congressional session.
Basking in his first-place finish in Tuesday’s election, Gavin Newsom looked to November, casting the next phase of the election as a referendum on President Trump and California’s future.
“This is not a victory speech,” Newsom told supporters gathered at a San Francisco nightclub Tuesday evening, but the lieutenant governor was nevertheless triumphant in his primary performance and having drawn a Republican, Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox, as his opponent in the fall.
“In politics today, there’s too much anger,” Newsom said. “Instead, we offered answers. Resistance with results.”
Antonio Villaraigosa conceded the gubernatorial race Tuesday night and endorsed fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom, with whom he bitterly clashed during the election.
“I’m asking you to get behind Gavin Newsom,” Villaraigosa said, surrounded by his family. “I’m asking you to stand up and pressure every one of us – Democrat and Republican alike – pressure every one of us to stand up for you, to fight for you, not just for ourselves, but for all of us, for an America and a California where every one of us are growing together.”
Villaraigosa also thanked Republican John Cox, saying that though they are from different parties and have different worldviews, it was important to acknowledge people who care enough about their communities to run for office. Cox beat Villaraigosa for the second spot and will compete with Newsom in the general election.
Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) won the most votes Tuesday, but he won’t know whom he will face in the November election anytime soon. Knight is attempting to keep his place as the last GOP incumbent representing an L.A. County-based district.
Bryan Caforio, who is challenging Knight for the second time, had been considered the favorite early on in the primary race. With fewer than 15% of precincts reporting results, Caforio barely led fellow Democrat Katie Hill for the second slot. Hill’s dynamic fundraising and backing from abortion rights group Emily’s List has added to her momentum in recent weeks.