- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a top foe of President Barack Obama and one of the highest-profile members of Congress, was in the toughest fight of his political career Tuesday as California Democrats sought to use opposition to Donald Trump to build on their commanding lead in the nation’s largest congressional delegation.

Democrats hold a 39-14 advantage in the state and eyed a handful of Republican seats for pickups, including Issa’s in the San Diego area. Two other vulnerable Republicans, Steve Knight and Jeff Denham, had leads early Wednesday.

Democrats held on to two other seats but with new faces. In the Silicon Valley, Ro Khanna, a former U.S. Commerce Department official under President Barack Obama, defeated eight-term incumbent Mike Honda, who is mired in an ethics investigation. On California’s Central Coast, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal prevailed over Republican businessman Justin Fareed for an open seat created by the retirement of Lois Capps.

With Hillary Clinton winning California, as expected, and Kamala Harris easily defeating fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez in state’s U.S. Senate race, Republican candidates faced tall obstacles in getting party faithful to vote.

Here’s a look at key U.S. House contests:

GOP STAR IN SEE-SAW BATTLE

In the 49th District that straddles San Diego and Orange counties, Issa led Democrat Doug Applegate with about 52 percent of 124,000 votes counted. Applegate, an attorney and retired Marine colonel, was seeking elected office for the first time.

Issa, the wealthiest member of Congress, cruised to re-election seven times against little-known opponents, including a 21-point victory in 2014. Applegate surprised almost everyone in the June top-two primary when he came within 5 percentage points of Issa to advance to November’s runoff.

Applegate has targeted Issa for his support of Trump and his role as President Barack Obama’s chief inquisitor as chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2011 to 2015.

Issa compared Trump to Ronald Reagan, served as a delegate for him at the Republican National Convention and joined his team of national security advisers last month.

Republicans have a 7-point advantage over Democrats in voter registration in the district.

DISAVOWING TRUMP

Knight, a freshman lawmaker representing California’s 25th District north of Los Angeles, was considered one of the nation’s most endangered Republicans in Congress even before Trump became the GOP nominee.

He led challenger Bryan Caforio by about 10 percentage points with 75,000 votes counted.

Caforio sought to benefit from anti-Trump sentiment among the large number of Latinos in the district. Knight said he didn’t support Trump after the billionaire businessman was caught on tape bragging about his sexual advances on women.

Caforio moved to the district only last year, leading critics to label him a carpetbagger. Knight emphasized his deep local roots as a Palmdale city councilman and state lawmaker.

In the Central Valley’s overwhelmingly Democratic 21st District, two-term Republican incumbent David Valadao defeated Democrat Emilio Huerta, a Bakersfield attorney and son of labor icon Dolores Huerta. Valadao had 60 percent of the votes.

Valadao said in June that he didn’t support Trump, blunting a Democratic line of attack. He enjoyed a big fundraising advantage.

SO WE MEET AGAIN

Trump figured large in California’s 10th District, where two-term Republican Jeff Denham led by 5 percentage points in a rematch against Democrat Michael Eggman, an almond grower.

Denham defeated Eggman by 20 points in the June primary and by 12 points in 2014. Still, the district voted twice for President Barack Obama and was considered one of the tightest races in the country. National Democratic leaders made it a top priority.

In the Silicon Valley’s 17th District, Khanna had 59 percent of the votes. He narrowly lost to Honda two years ago.

Honda, the only California incumbent who didn’t finish first in the June primary, has long been under scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee for allegations he had congressional aides perform campaign work on government time.

ETHICAL CLOUD

Republicans saw their best chance for a pickup in the Sacramento-area’s 7th District, which Democrat Ami Bera narrowly won in 2012 and 2014. He faces a tough challenge from Republican challenger Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who raised his profile as a critic of Obama’s immigration policies.

Bera led Jones by 7 percentage points with about 106,000 votes counted.

Bera’s father was sentenced to a year in federal prison in August for illegally funneling nearly $270,000 to his son’s campaigns. Ami Bera was not charged and denied knowing about his father’s activities.

The Teamsters endorsed Jones after Bera supported fast-track trade negotiating authority for Obama and then withdrew support after Jones backed Trump. Jones pulled his endorsement last month after audio surfaced of Trump boasting about grabbing women.

PASSING THE TORCH

Carbajal won the open seat created by the retirement of Capps, a nine-term Democrat. He had a 54-46 lead over Fareed with 210,000 votes counted early Wednesday.

“It is a privilege to live in a country where a young immigrant from Mexico, and the son of a farmworker, is afforded the opportunity to serve his community in the halls of Congress,” Carbajal said in a statement.

In Orange County’s 44th District, former state Sen. Lou Correa defeated Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen in the race an open seat created by Democrat Loretta Sanchez’s U.S. Senate run. Both are Democrats.

In Los Angeles’ 44th District, state Sen. Isadore Hall III led Nanette Barragan, a former Hermosa Beach councilwoman to fill the seat of Janice Hahn, who ran for county supervisor. Both are Democrats.


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