Democrats seemed to have avoided a nightmare scenario in the California primaries after several of their candidates appeared well-positioned to advance to the general election in key congressional districts that could decide whether Republicans defend their vulnerable majority in the U.S. House.
The GOP, meanwhile, appeared locked out of the uphill race to unseat Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, while Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, and Republican John Cox, who won the support of President Trump, advance to the general election this fall.
Democrats have been targeting more than a half-dozen congressional seats in California that Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election, including Rep. Ed Royce’s Orange County-based seat in the 39th Congressional District.
That’s where a handful of Democrats ran, stirring up fears that the sheer number of candidates could split the party’s vote and allow a couple of Republicans to advance in the jungle primary, where the top two vote-getters move on regardless of party.
But the latest vote tallies from that race showed that Republican Young Kim, a former state lawmaker, had finished first there, and Democrat Gil Cisneros, who had the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was likely to finish second.
Rep. David Valadao was a bright spot for Republicans. The incumbent lawmaker outran President Trump by 16 percentage points in a district Mrs. Clinton won handily, according to the Los Angeles Times, and will face off against Democrat T.J. Cox.
Republican Reps. Jeff Denham in California’s 10th Congressional District, Steve Knight in the 25th Congressional District and Dana Rohrabacher in the 48th Congressional District also had big targets on their backs heading into the primary.
All three of them took the top spot in the respective primaries, and were still waiting Wednesday morning to see which of their rivals would emerge as their general election challenger.
Democrats were well-positioned not to get locked out of those general election races.
Democrat Josh Harder, a venture capitalist, was running second behind Mr. Denham, clinging to a 850 vote lead over Republican Ted Howze.
Katie Hill, who runs a nonprofit homeless shelter, looked to be the next opponent for Mr. Knight, and Harley Rouda and Hans Keirstead — the favored candidates of the Democratic Party — were locked in a tight battle to take on Mr. Rohrabacher.
In the gubernatorial race, Mr. Newsom took the top spot followed by Mr. Cox. The winner will replace Gov. Jerry Brown, who is term-limited.
Mrs. Feinstein romped to an early victory in her re-election push while state Senate Leader Kevin de Leon, a progressive challenging her from the left, clung to a narrow lead over Republican upstart James P. Bradley, though millions of ballots are still being counted.
The Associated Press said Mr. de Leon’s led by less than 100,000 votes, underscoring the big task ahead if he gets a head-to-head matchup with Mrs. Feinstein. She secured more than 40 percent of the vote, or far exceeding Mr. de Leon, at nearly 11 percent.
“Thanks so much for your support and for your faith in me. I’m not going to let you down. “Now it’s on to November!” Mrs. Feinstein said in a taped message from D.C., saying Senate business kept her there.
Though official results were still being tallied, the de Leon campaign said Wednesday it was confident that voters had punched his “ticket to the general.”
“Yesterday the overwhelming majority of voters called for a referendum on a broken establishment in Washington, D.C., that has stopped working for the people of California. It’s time for a new approach,” Mr. de Leon said.
“Voters deserve a spirited debate in the coming months on the issues they care about most and the challenges facing our state,” he added. “I look forward to engaging my opponent on the debate stage as we face-off in November.”
His closest rival, Mr. Bradley, hinted that Mr. de Leon might not get that chance.
“Let’s wait for every vote to be counted,” the Republican tweeted early Wednesday.