LOS ANGELES (AP) - California Republican U.S. Reps. Steve Knight and Jeff Denham overcame tough opposition to hold onto their seats Wednesday, while two other incumbents in the state - Republican Darrel Issa and Democrat Ami Bera - were in close battles.
Knight, a freshman in the Los Angeles area, and Denham, a two-term incumbent from Modesto, won even though Democrats enjoy advantages in voter registration in their districts.
Issa, a top foe of President Barack Obama and one of the highest-profile members of Congress, was clinging to a slim lead in his Southern California district over political neophyte Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel. And Bera was in a dogfight with his Republican challenger, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
Democrats held a 39-14 advantage in the nation’s largest congressional delegation going into the election and should Issa and Bera prevail the numbers will be unchanged.
Democrats kept two of their 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 the 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.
Here’s a look at the key U.S. House contests:
GOP STAR IN SEE-SAW BATTLE
In the 49th District that straddles San Diego and Orange counties, Issa led Applegate by 2 percentage points, or about 4,000 votes of some 183,000 counted. Applegate, an attorney, was seeking elected office for the first time in a district with many military veterans like him.
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 targeted Issa for his support of Donald 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 favorably compared Trump to Ronald Reagan, served as a delegate for the billionaire businessman 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.
Knight was considered one of the nation’s most endangered Republicans in Congress even before Trump became the GOP nominee but defeated Democrat Bryan Caforio in the 25th District. He had 54 percent of the 175,000 votes counted.
Caforio congratulated Knight on his win.
“While I’m disappointed in the outcome, I wish Congressman Knight nothing but the best as he continues to represent the 25th District. I hope that after this election he takes the time to listen to the community and works to represent the District as a whole, not only those that voted for him,” he said.
Caforio moved to the district only last year, which prompted 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 59 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 Denham prevailed in a rematch against Democrat Michael Eggman, an almond grower.
Denham led by 5 percentage points, or about 7,400 votes, of some 154,000 counted and The Associated Press called the race for him because of the remote likelihood Eggman would get enough of the remaining uncounted votes to overcome the deficit.
Eggman has not conceded.
“As expected, this race is incredibly close,” Eggman campaign manager Josh Lord said Wednesday. “There are still a significant number of ballots outstanding and it’s important to allow the registrars time to count every vote.”
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 60 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.
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 was locked in a tight race, leading Jones by 1 percentage point, or 2,100 votes, out of about 171,000 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 54 percent of the 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 narrowly defeated 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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