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Former Democratic state Sen. Lou Correa dominated the primary in the 46th Congressional District, outpacing his closest challenger, Republican Bob Peterson, by more than 27 points, according to the night’s final tally from the county Registrar of Voters.
Democrat Joe Dunn, also a former state senator, was widely expected to challenge Correa for the top spot but finished a distant fourth.
With all precincts reporting, Correa garnered 23,719 votes, or 41.6 percent of the total. Peterson’s 8,333 votes, or 14.6 percent, was enough to edge Democratic Garden Grove Councilman Bao Nguyen, who won 13.7 percent of the vote. Dunn finished with 12.8 percent of the vote.
Correa and Peterson will face off in the November general election.
“This just shows, the harder you work the sweeter the victory,” said Correa in a speech to supporters at his election night headquarters in Anaheim.
The surprise of the night was Peterson, who campaigned as a political outsider with humble roots, often recounting the years that he lived in an abandoned warehouse in Anaheim with his father. Peterson joined the Sheriff’s Department after graduating high school, washing inmates’ underwear and working his way up the ranks.
Correa said he would run a general election campaign focused on reducing college debt, creating “good-paying jobs,” and immigration reform.
Tuesday’s victory was a vindication for Correa, who lost by just 47 votes to Andrew Do in a 2015 special election for the First District supervisorial seat. His loss was attributed in part to a relatively weak campaign effort.
“For the supervisors race, I only had seven weeks to put together a campaign. I started working on this campaign a year ago,” he said.
The 46th Congressional seat is likely to remain a safe seat for Democrats, as the party holds a 2 to 1 advantage over Republicans in voter registration.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who is vacating the office to run for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat in November, has been re-elected by wide margins since she took the seat from Republican Bob Dornan in 1996.
Correa’s campaign raised $492,801 and attracted $613,834 in outside spending during the primary campaign. Dunn was second in fundraising with a $386,932 campaign war chest.
Nguyen, a relative newcomer to county politics, raised $134,514.
Irvine Councilwoman Lynn Schott, a Republican who does not live in the 46th District, received 8.7 percent of the vote.
Reporters Kaitlin Washburn and Tracy Wood contributed to this report.