Democrats pick up House seat in Inland Empire, 2 years behind schedule

Congressman-elect Pete Aguilar
Pete Aguilar after a meeting in San Bernardino County last year. He was elected to Congress on Tuesday.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

With a handful of key congressional races still too close to call Wednesday, Democrats can savor one victory, at least: Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar delivered an open Inland Empire seat into their hands.

Aguilar defeated military veteran and businessman Paul Chabot, 51% to 49%, for the seat being vacated by the retirement of Rep. Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga).

It was the only House seat in California that Democrats picked up in Tuesday’s election. 

They had expected to take the open, Democratic-tilting 31st Congressional District seat two years ago. But candidates of that party, including Aguilar, splintered the primary vote, enabling Miller and another Republican to advance to the fall election.


But the news wasn’t all good for the state’s dominant party: Four Democratic incumbent House of Representatives members are in danger of losing their seats once all the ballots are counted.

On Wednesday morning, fewer than 700 votes separated Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) from Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), with an estimated 10,000 ballots still to be counted.

Brownley was leading Gorell. but three of her colleagues were trailing their Republican challengers at the end of election-night tallying. 

In one of the biggest surprises of the fall campaigns, veteran Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno was running behind dairy farmer Johnny Tacherra, 50.5% to 49.5%.


In races that had been expected to be very close, Rep. Scott Peters of San Diego trailed businessman Carl DeMaio, 50.3% to 49.7%, and Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove was outpaced by former congressman Doug Ose of Sacramento, 51.4% to 48.6%.

It could take days, even weeks, before all the remaining ballots are counted.  They are mainly provisional ballots and mail ballots that arrived on Election Day.

Counties have until Dec. 2 to complete their tallies and report them to the secretary of State, who has until Dec. 12 to certify final election results.

Follow @jeanmerl for the latest in Southern California politics news.

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