Top-two primary yields surprises, relief for California candidates and incumbents

Several California congressional contests on Tuesday night were shaping up to be surprises, showcasing the unusual nature of the state’s relatively new top-two primary system.

With many Los Angeles area races reporting just a small percentage of votes, incumbents appeared to have all made it past the first test. In open seats, a handful of same-party races are expected for November. 

By midnight, four hours after polls closed, the Associated Press had called 39 of 53 House races. 

Which candidate is winning in your Congressional District? »

The bitter rematch between eight-term Rep. Michael Honda (D-San Jose) and former Obama administration official Ro Khanna in the 17th District will move on to the November ballot, with the two men tied at 38% and the AP calling the race. Less than 40% of precincts had reported results by midnight.

Honda beat Khanna in 2014 by 3.6 percentage points after a close, expensive and often-bitter race. Honda had broad support among the state's Democratic Party leadership, while many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs lined up behind Khanna. Now Honda is facing an ethics probe, and Khanna has much of the establishment support.

The district includes heavily Asian communities in Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Milpitas, part of San Jose and stretches north to Fremont and Newark.

“We know that this is going to be one of the closest congressional races in the country,” Honda said in a statement. “I am ready to fight tooth and nail between now and Nov. 8th so I can continue delivering for middle-class families and turning progressive ideals into results.”

One major question: Will Khanna finish on top once the votes are counted? 

With 58% of the vote in, former state Sen. Lou Correa won in the 46th Congressional District with 40% of the vote, according to the Associated Press.

Republican Bob Peterson was in second place with 16%, a surprise in a contest that had been expected to end up with two Democrats in the fall. Former state Sen. Joe Dunn, one of the top fundraisers in the race, was trailing behind Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen who had 14%.

Eight candidates were in the running to replace Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who is running for the U.S. Senate. The central Orange County district includes Disneyland, the Latino-heavy city of Santa Ana to the south and, to the east, a strip of Little Saigon.

Open seats

In the 24th District, now represented by Democratic Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal was leading with 33% among the nine candidates running to succeed her. Three-quarters of ballots had been counted.

“Our work is not done,” he said in Santa Barbara. “We want … to make sure this seat continues blue.”

Assemblyman K.H. "Katcho" Achadjian of San Luis Obispo and Justin Fareed, a 28-year-old former Capitol Hill staffer who works for his family's sports medical devices company, were neck-and-neck with 20% and 19% respectively.

State Sen. Isadore Hall was leading in the 44th Congressional District race to replace Rep. Janice Hahn, who is leaving Congress to run for county supervisor. (Hahn is leading that race.) Democratic attorney Nanette Barragán was in second place.

“The community has spoken, and they have decided to support a candidate that is from the community,” Hall told The Times by phone Tuesday, a subtle jab at Barragán, who only recently moved back to the district.

The largely working-class district stretches from the port communities of Los Angeles north through Carson, Compton and Willowbrook to South Gate and Lynwood.

Hall was endorsed early by Hahn, and has the backing of the state Democratic Party and many state, local and federal Democrats. Barragán is backed by Emily’s List, the League of Conservation Voters and several state, federal and local Democrats.

A November race could pit the Latino community against the African American community.

Seats Republicans are watching

Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) won the 21st District, according to the Associated Press. It was not yet clear whether he will face Fowler City Councilman Daniel Parra or Bakersfield lawyer Emilio Huerta, the son of labor icon Dolores Huerta, in November.

“I am incredibly humbled and honored to have received such immense support from California’s 21st District," Valadao said in a statement.

The Associated Press also called the 25th Congressional District for Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale). He will face attorney Bryan Caforio, a Democrat who was leading LAPD Lt. Lou Vince with less than 10% of the vote counted.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) of the 10th Congressional District was leading his chief opponent, Democrat Michael Eggman, the beekeeper he beat in the 2014 general election by 12 percentage points. The Associated Press had not called the race.

In the 7th Congressional District, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) and Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones will appear on the ballot in November. Because there were only two candidates, the Associated Press is not expected to release specific results on the race Tuesday night.

The race has been watched in part because Bera’s father, Babuel Bera, pleaded guilty in May to illegally funneling more than a quarter of a million dollars to his son's 2010 and 2012 campaigns.

The congressman has said that neither he nor campaign aides knew of his father’s activities until they were contacted by federal prosecutors. An aide said Ami Bera wrote a check from his political account to the U.S. Treasury on the day of the plea to cover the entire amount identified by prosecutors.

Javier Panzar contributed reporting from Santa Barbara.

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Read more about the 55 members of California's delegation at



Congressional races to watch

CD 17: Silicon Valley congressman gets three donations for legal defense fund, spends $0

CD 21: Emilio Huerta, son of labor icon, jumps into Central Valley congressional race

CD 24: How does a 28-year-old raise more than $1 million for a congressional bid

CD 24: A farmer and a former UCLA football player are running for Congress. Here's why you should pay attention

CD 25: Democratic lawyer announcing challenge to GOP Rep. Steve Knight

CD 25: As Porter Ranch gas leak lingers, candidates smell a political opportunity

CD 44: Race, oil and the environment all play into this L.A. congressional race

CD 44: Did Isadore Hall's congressional campaign break federal election law?

CD 46: For the first time, some Orange County voters might be choosing between two Democrats for Congress

Live coverage of the California primary