California GOP Rep. Valadao keeps seat

Published 11-07-2018

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. David Valadao turned back a tough challenge in his farm-belt district Tuesday while several other California GOP House members were in tight races.

Democrats, who hold a 39-14 advantage in California's congressional delegation, targeted seven GOP districts in the state carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

The California battlegrounds range from Central Valley farmland to legendary surfing spots in Orange County and horse country north of Los Angeles. A torrent of money has flooded districts, with outside groups dumping over $10 million into several contests.

Valadao persevered in the Central Valley, despite a 16-point Democratic registration edge in the 21st District, while Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, Mimi Walters, Steven Knight and Jeff Denham were in races that were too close to call.

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THE BATTLE FOR ORANGE COUNTY

There was a time when talk of Democratic candidates seriously competing for House seats in the heart of Orange County would have been taken as a joke. After all, the county was once home to Richard Nixon and considered conservative holy ground.

But demographics have shifted along with the county's politics, and two seats being vacated by retiring Republican Reps. Darrell Issa and Ed Royce gave Democrats an opening.

In Royce's 39th District, Republican Young Kim was holding an 8-point edge over Democrat Gil Cisneros, with about 110,000 votes counted. If elected, Kim would become the first Korean-American immigrant woman elected to the House. The former state legislator worked for Royce for years and has positioned herself as a Trump supporter with an independent streak.

Cisneros, a first-time candidate who won a $266 million lottery jackpot, was lookin

There was a time when talk of Democratic candidates seriously competing for House seats in the heart of Orange County would have been taken as a joke. After all, the county was once home to Richard Nixon and considered conservative holy ground.

But demographics have shifted along with the county's politics, and two seats being vacated by retiring Republican Reps. Darrell Issa and Ed Royce gave Democrats an opening.

In Royce's 39th District, Republican Young Kim was holding an 8-point edge over Democrat Gil Cisneros, with about 110,000 votes counted. If elected, Kim would become the first Korean-American immigrant woman elected to the House. The former state legislator worked for Royce for years and has positioned herself as a Trump supporter with an independent streak.

Cisneros, a first-time candidate who won a $266 million lottery jackpot, was looking for a big turnout from Hispanics who make up about a third of the population.

In Issa's closely divided 49th District, Republican Diane Harkey, who sits on a state tax board, was trailing environmental attorney Mike Levin by about 5 points with 117,000 votes tallied.

Harkey was endorsed by Trump, but Levin attempted to turn that endorsement against her in a state where the president is unpopular.

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HANGING ON

Republicans are fighting to d

In Royce's 39th District, Republican Young Kim was holding an 8-point edge over Democrat Gil Cisneros, with about 110,000 votes counted. If elected, Kim would become the first Korean-American immigrant woman elected to the House. The former state legislator worked for Royce for years and has positioned herself as a Trump supporter with an independent streak.

Cisneros, a first-time candidate who won a $266 million lottery jackpot, was looking for a big turnout from Hispanics who make up about a third of the population.

In Issa's closely divided 49th District, Republican Diane Harkey, who sits on a state tax board, was trailing environmental attorney Mike Levin by about 5 points with 117,000 votes tallied.

Harkey was endorsed by Trump, but Levin attempted to turn that endorsement against her in a state where the president is unpopular.

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HANGING ON

Republicans are fighting to defend two vulnerable incumbents in Orange County: Walters and Rohrabacher. Both were easily re-elected just two years ago.

In the 45th District, which has a 7-point GOP registration edge, Walters was leading law professor Katie Porter, a protégé of Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, by about 5 points with 142,000 votes counted.

Porter had campaigned on overturning Trump's tax reform package and her support for universal health care.

Rohrabacher, known as Russia's leading defender on Capitol Hill, was in a tough race with Republican-turned-Democrat Harley Rouda in the 48th District, where the GOP has a 10-point registration edge.

Rouda, a real estate executive, has depicted the 15-term congressman as the face of Washington gridlock. He was leading by 600 votes, with about 140,000 counted.

Rohrabacher was first elected three decades ago as a Reagan Republican, but campaigned as a maverick willing to defy both parties.

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THE LAST REPUBLICAN IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Knight is in a tough fight to hang on as last Republican congressman in the nation's most populous county. He trailed Democrat Katie Hill by 182 votes with 73,000 counted.

Democrats hold a registration edge in the 25th District, which cuts through suburbs, horse ranches and high desert in northern Los Angeles County and a small slice of Ventura County.

Knight's family has been involved in local politics for decades - a high school is named after his father, a former legislator and test pilot.

Hill stressed her centrist politics: She's a gun owner and her Republican father is a police officer who had never voted for a Democrat before her primary. Her mother, a Democrat, is a nurse.

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FIGHT IN THE FARMLAND

Valadao and Denham represent farm-belt districts where Democrats have more registered voters but are more moderate than in urban areas.

Valadao's 21st District includes parts of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. He won by a wide margin in 2016 and repeated that again this year, leading Democrat T.J. Cox by 12 points, with 52,000 votes tallied.

Cox tried to make the race a referendum on Valadao's support for President Donald Trump.

In a tip to the district's heavy Hispanic population, Valadao touted his support for a way to keep in the country people who came as children when their parents illegally entered.

In the 10th District, anchored in Modesto, Denham was leading Democrat Josh Harder by about 1 point, with 84,000 votes counted in early returns.

Harder argued that Republican policies in Washington have hurt many residents. He emphasized that Denham voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which Harder supports.

Denham, known for his involvement in water issues vital to agriculture, has proven tough to beat, despite the Democratic registration edge. He won by 3 percentage points in 2016.

Representing a district with a large Hispanic population, Denham has pushed for Congress to consider a pathway for citizenship for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and stayed here illegally.

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AN INDICTMENT AND UNCERTAINTY

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter represents the 50th District in San Diego County, which has the greatest GOP voter edge over Democrats in Southern California - 14 points.

But a 60-count federal grand jury indictment against him and his wife, alleging the couple illegally used $250,000 in campaign funds for vacations, meals and other personal expenses, reordered the race.

Early returns showed Hunter with 54 percent of 90,000 votes counted.

Hunter, who has pleaded not guilty, has called the case a witch hunt. Even with the charges hanging over him, Hunter is favored against Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a 29-year-old, first-time candidate.

Hunter, A Marine combat veteran seeking his sixth term, ran an ad alleging Campa-Najjar, a Latino Arab-American, is working to "infiltrate Congress." It falsely asserts he is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. It also mentions his Palestinian background.

Campa-Najjar's father served in the Palestine Liberation Organization and his grandfather was a leader of the group that orchestrated the terror attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics that killed 11 Israeli athletes.

Campa-Najjar, who was raised in San Diego by his Mexican-American mother, has had little to do with his father and his Palestinian grandfather was killed before he was born. The FBI vetted his family before giving him security clearances to work in the Obama administration.

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CALIFORNIA POWERHOUSES

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield were easily re-elected Tuesday. With Democrats gaining ground in the House, Pelosi is likely to be the next speaker.

In the Central Valley's 22nd District, close ties to the president turned out to be an asset. Republican Devin Nunes was re-elected after a tough campaign against Democrat Andrew Janz, a local prosecutor.

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