In what could be a stunning upset, retired Sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva took a narrow lead over Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell early Wednesday. With 100% of precincts reporting, he was ahead by 4,927 votes.
Provisional ballots and late mail ballots still have to be counted.
Villanueva would be the first challenger to unseat a living incumbent sheriff in the county in more than 100 years. Villanueva, who has served in the Sheriff’s Department for three decades, took a lead despite McDonnell out-fundraising him 8 to 1. He made expelling immigration agents from the county jails a centerpiece of his platform.
In Santa Clarita, the 400 or so people who’d gathered for House candidate Katie Hill’s and Assembly candidate Christy Smith’s election-returns party kept the mood buoyant despite no sign of a decision in either race.
The party took place in a music venue in the Westfield Valencia Town Center and outlasted the shopping mall, which shuttered before California returns began rolling in.
Republicans held narrow leads in three Senate races that were still not called early Wednesday, leaving the size of the Republican majority in the chamber uncertain the morning after ballots were cast.
Leading in the vote count nearing midnight Tuesday and before the race had been called, a jubilant Mike Levin went ahead and claimed victory in the 49th Congressional District.
“We are going to win,” said Levin, an environmental attorney in Orange County, as he awaited a tally from the San Diego County registrar of voters.
In a crowded hotel ballroom in Del Mar, accompanied by his wife, Chrissy, his two children and his parents, he told several hundred enthusiastic supporters and campaign workers that it was time to celebrate.
Longtime Rep. Dana Rohrabacher stood on stage at an Irish pub, next to an old surfboard that read, "Give me Liberty or Give me Surf," and called his bid for reelection a race of “David against Goliath.”
A supporter shouted back, “Dana versus Goliath!”
Rohrabacher, a Republican who’s served in Congress for 30 years, told the supporters and volunteers at his election-night party that Democrats had spent wildly to try to defeat him.
To resounding cheers and applause on Tuesday, Democratic congressional candidate Josh Harder took the stage at a downtown Modesto banquet hall and said he was proud of running a campaign that didn’t “get dragged down into the mud” but painted a brighter picture for the Central Valley.
“What we are seeing across our nation right now, in this community, is rebuke to the last two years ... rebuke to the politics of hate, of fear,” he said. “We don’t believe that. We reject that.”
If there has been any Central Valley congressional district with a shot of turning blue this election, it has been this one where Democrats hold a slight edge in registered voters and carried the last two presidential campaigns. And if there has been any candidate that supporters have believed could bridge the area’s growing urban-rural divide, it has been Harder.
Few can argue with California Democrats that their sweeping victories on Tuesday are a clear mandate to set in place an agenda for the state that will last well into the next decade. Less clear, though, is what those marching orders should be — and whether voters will embrace the full panoply of demands that have lurched the state’s dominant party leftward since the election of President Trump.
California cemented its role as a defiant counterweight to the federal government on Tuesday as the state’s voters elected Gavin Newsom, an enthusiastic adversary of President Trump, as their next governor.