With Democratic hopes of reclaiming control of the U.S. House long dashed, they could look to two new members of the California congressional delegation elected to open seats as they waited on the handful of competitive races to be decided.
Going into the election, Democrats held 39 of 53 seats and were trying to nudge a few of the GOP’s 14 seats into their control.
Early returns showed incumbents who weren’t in any danger had been reelected. At midnight the Associated Press had called 43 of the 53 races, with a handful of interesting contests decided or headed to a victor.
In the 21st District, Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) defeated Democratic attorney Emilio Huerta.
Democrats had hoped that Huerta’s name ID (his mother is labor rights icon Dolores Huerta) and Donald Trump’s shadow would be enough to take down the second-term Republican, but Valadao repudiated Trump early and kept the focus in the heavily agricultural district on water.
With nearly 65% of precincts in, the congressman was leading 58.3% to 41.7%.
Rep. Mike Honda was defeated by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, 58.5% to 41.5%. He appeared to be the only California incumbent to lose.
Honda defeated Khanna two years ago by 3.6 percentage points in a nasty fight, and the rematch had been closely watched. Honda went into the 2016 race with an ethics complaint against him that is still being investigated by the House Ethics Committee. His campaign sued Khanna’s campaign, alleging his rival’s campaign manager stole the donor information at the root of the complaint.
The district includes heavily Asian communities in Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Milpitas and part of San Jose and stretches north to Fremont and Newark.
In north Los Angeles County, Republican Rep. Steve Knight was poised to keep his seat with about 40% of the vote counted. He was leading with 55.1% of the vote over Democratic attorney Bryan Caforio, who had 44.9%.
Unexpected fight for Issa
The contest between Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate was far from a result at midnight.
Democrats have focused heavily on Orange and San Diego counties’ 49th District in the past month, in hopes they could take down the eight-term congressman, who’s long been a thorn in the Obama administration’s side.
Issa was leading 52.3% to 47.7%, but with less than half of votes counted.
Last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told The Times there was an “excitement” from national Democrats who were eager to oust Issa.
Bera appears safe
In the Sacramento area’s 7th District, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) was leading Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican. With two-thirds of the vote in, Bera was ahead 53.4% to 46.6%.
Bera and Jones have both been plagued by ethical questions this cycle, and the contest appeared to be the GOP’s best chance of picking up a seat in California.
Central Valley staying red?
As Valadao prevailed, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) of the 10th Congressional District was leading Democrat Michael Eggman, the beekeeper he beat by 12 percentage points in the 2014 general election. The Associated Press had not called the race by midnight, when just over 64% of returns showed Denham ahead 52.3% to 47.7%.
This race is critical to Democrats’ hopes for adding to their majority within the congressional delegation. They attempted to tie Denham to Trump, whose favorability is terrible in California.
As they cast votes, about 63% of California voters told exit pollsters they were dissatisfied or angry with how the federal government is working.
Of those who were more optimistic about Washington, 81% voted for Clinton. Among those who said they were unhappy with the federal government, 44% voted for Trump.
The open seats
At minimum, California will have four new members of Congress in January, because incumbents didn’t run for reelection in the 20th, 24th, 44th and 46th districts.
All four seats have been held by Democrats.
In the 20th District, Monterey County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jimmy Panetta, a Democrat, defeated Republican Casey Lucius. He will succeed Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel).
Panetta, whose father, Leon Panetta, represented the Central Coast for 15 years, had been a favorite since entering the race.
Democratic Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal was elected in the 24th District held by retiring Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara). He defeated 28-year-old GOP candidate and former Capitol Hill staff member Justin Fareed, 55.2% to 44.8%.
The race in the Los Angeles port communities’ 44th District was tight, with Compton state Sen. Isadore Hall and former Hermosa Beach Councilwoman Nanette Barragán trading leads all night long. Just after midnight, Barragán was at 51.5% and Hall had 48.5% with 43% of the vote counted. They are vying to replace Rep. Janice Hahn, who is running for Los Angeles County supervisor and was leading her rival as the votes were being counted.
The race between the two Democrats has been bitter since the primary and in the final days of the election came to a sharp, racially tinged edge.
Voters in Orange County picked between two Democrats for the first time Tuesday, and former state Sen. Lou Correa defeated Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, 70.1% to Nguyen’s 29.9%.
Correa replaces Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who lost her U.S. Senate race Tuesday.
The Sanchez election watch party Tuesday night was held at a campaign office the two of them share.
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.
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Read more about the 55 members of California’s delegation at latimes.com/politics