California Democrats appear to have gained a House seat

Lydia Harris, a temporary worker at the Sacramento Registrar of Voters, looks over a mail-in ballot before it is sent to be counted a week after polls closed in the 2014 election.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Democrats appear to have gained a seat in California’s congressional delegation as the last of the state’s close House contests seem settled — more than two weeks after Election Day.

In both races, Democratic incumbents staved off Republican challengers after finishing behind them on election night, then gradually pulling ahead as election officials continued to count ballots.

On Wednesday, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) declared victory over former Rep. Doug Ose after Sacramento County’s final tally showed Bera ahead by 1,432 votes.


And the Associated Press declared Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) the winner of a surprisingly close battle with Republican dairy farmer Johnny Tacherra in a race that was largely off the radars of both major political parties. Costa led by 1,319 votes in the latest counts from the three Central Valley counties in his district.

Ose conceded Wednesday evening and offered congratulations to Bera in a statement released by his campaign.

There was no immediate comment from Costa or Tacherra, who could seek a recount if he is willing to foot the bill. He would be reimbursed if it changed the outcome.

Assuming the results stand, California will have provided a silver lining for Democrats nationally, who lost about 12 seats in the House of Representatives in the Nov. 4 elections and saw Republicans take the majority in the Senate.

Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, a Democrat, defeated Republican military veteran Paul Chabot for an Inland Empire seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Gary Miller of Rancho Cucamonga. Democrats will hold 39 of California’s 53 House seats.

All four freshman Democrats from California were reelected despite being targeted by national Republicans and their allies in high-spending races. In addition to Bera, Reps. Scott Peters of San Diego, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert and Julia Brownley of Westlake Village prevailed against challengers. Ruiz’s race turned not to be close.


The Peters and Brownley races had been too close to call on election night, but their respective opponents, businessman Carl DeMaio and Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo, conceded as the counting went against them in the days following the election.

The outstanding ballots were mainly mail ballots that had arrived too late to be counted on election night, along with some so-called provisional ballots that needed to be verified before they could be added to the tally.

State law requires that every valid ballot be counted, and counties have until Dec. 2 to finish the job.

In most cases, these last ballots don’t change the election result.
Twitter: @jeanmerl