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Rohrabacher heads to general election for his congressional seat as voters weigh in on primary races

COSTA MESA, CALIF. - JUNE 05: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher sings and dances to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Do
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) exults during his primary election night party in Costa Mesa on Tuesday, when he advanced to November’s general election in his bid to keep his 48th Congressional District seat.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In the most closely watched local race of Tuesday’s primary election, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) clinched a spot in November’s general election as he led a hefty field of challengers trying to oust him from his 48th Congressional District seat.

The race for the second spot on the fall ballot was very close, with Harley Rouda edging in front of fellow Democrat Hans Keirstead.

At 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, Rohrabacher had 30% of the votes with all precincts reporting, with Rouda 73 votes ahead of Keirstead (at 17% each). Republican Scott Baugh was behind them at 16%.

Under California’s “jungle” primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the fall general election, regardless of their party affiliation.


Speaking at his election night party in Costa Mesa, Rohrabacher said the primary returns were “not a victory for me. This was a victory for America.”

In the California governor’s race, state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) was running fourth as Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox advanced to the general election. Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa was third.

In the race to replace Allen in the 72nd Assembly District, Democrat Josh Lowenthal (37%) and Republican Tyler Diep (30%) had a clear advantage over Republican Greg Haskin.

At the same time, Assemblyman Matthew Harper, another Huntington Beach Republican, and Democrat Cottie Petrie-Norris advanced to the general election for Harper’s 74th Assembly District spot. Harper collected 41% of the vote; Petrie-Norris 28%. Democrat Karina Onofre was third, just ahead of Republican Katherine Daigle.


48th Congressional District

Rohrabacher is facing a major political fight to secure a 16th term in Congress.

Fifteen hopefuls threw their hats in the ring to try to replace Rohrabacher representing the 48th District, which includes Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.

Four of those candidates — Democrats Michael Kotick, Laura Oatman and Rachel Payne and Republican Stelian Onufrei — dropped out of the race, though their names still appeared on the ballot.

Of the 11 challengers remaining, five were Democrats: Keirstead, a scientist and stem cell researcher from Laguna Beach; fellow Laguna Beach resident Rouda, an attorney and businessman; Deanie Schaarsmith, a Laguna Niguel resident who owns a DUI counseling program; Omar Siddiqui, a Costa Mesa trial lawyer who also has served as an advisor to the FBI and CIA; and Tony Zarkades, a Marine Corps veteran and commercial pilot from Huntington Beach.

Rohrabacher’s seat has been in the Democratic Party’s crosshairs throughout this election cycle, particularly since Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district in the 2016 presidential election.

Rohrabacher said Tuesday night that his showing in the primary proves the Democrats’ hoped-for “blue wave” didn’t hit. “How many times do we have to hear there is a ‘blue wave’?” he said. “The tide is turning against these left-wing fanatics.”

The race received an extra jolt of intrigue with the entry of Republican heavyweight Baugh of Huntington Beach, a former state assemblyman who chaired the Orange County Republican Party for more than a decade.

Baugh wasn’t the only Republican challenging Rohrabacher. The others were John Gabbard, a Marine veteran and real estate developer; Costa Mesa resident Paul Martin, a freelance writer who also served as a Christian pastor; and Shastina Sandman, an entrepreneur.


Also running were Libertarian Brandon Reiser, a Corona del Mar resident who works at an investment firm; and Independent candidate Kevin Kensinger, who lives in Aliso Viejo and works for an investment company.


Allen, a three-term assemblyman, was among 27 candidates to replace termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown.

Some surveys during the campaign showed Allen as one of the leading contenders. However, a recent poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies showed him trailing Newsom, the lieutenant governor widely viewed as the front-runner in the campaign; Cox, a businessman whom President Trump endorsed; and former Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa.

State Assembly

With Allen in the midst of his gubernatorial bid, local voters had five candidates to choose from to replace him as representative of the 72nd Assembly District, which includes Fountain Valley and a swath of Huntington Beach.

Four candidates were Republicans: Diep, the Westminster vice mayor; Haskin, government affairs director for PepsiCo; Richard Laird, a small-business owner; and Long Pham, a Fountain Valley resident and a former member of the Orange County Board of Education.

The lone Democrat in the race was Lowenthal, a Huntington Beach resident and conference call company executive who is the son of Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and former Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal.

In the race for the 74th Assembly District seat representing Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and part of Huntington Beach, Harper took on Republican Daigle, an Irvine resident who finished third in the 2016 primary, and Democrats Onofre, whom Harper defeated in the 2016 general election; Laguna Beach resident Petrie-Norris, the California Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate in the race; and Ryan Ta, a management consultant.

Orange County Board of Supervisors

Also on the ballot for voters in Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach was a decision on whom to elect to the Orange County Board of Supervisors.


Supervisor Michelle Steel, a Republican who lives in Surfside, had a big lead in her bid for another term as the representative of the Second District on the five-member panel.

She drew two challengers: Democrat Brendon Perkins, an aerospace executive who lives in Huntington Beach, and Michael Mahony, a technology professional from Cypress.

The choice was simpler in the Fifth District, which includes Laguna Beach, as incumbent Lisa Bartlett ran unopposed.

Times Community News contributor Daniel Langhorne and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.


12:20 a.m. June 6: This article was updated with new returns.

12:20 a.m. June 6: This article was updated with new returns.

11:20 p.m. June 5: This article was updated with new returns and comments from Dana Rohrabacher.

10:20 p.m. June 5: This article was updated with new returns.

9:05 p.m. June 5: This article was updated with early returns.

This article was originally published at 4 a.m. June 5.