Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) ended election night with 53.2 percent of the vote, followed by Democrat Katie Porter with 19.9 percent and Dave Min, also a Democrat, with 17.2 percent.
If Porter maintains her lead as post-Election Day ballots are counted, she will face Walters in November.
Porter declared victory in an early Wednesday morning email news release,”I am running for Congress to stand up to Donald Trump and Mimi Walters, and to be the congresswoman that fights for Orange County families, not powerful special interests. Tonight, thanks to thousands of voters who cast a ballot for change, we moved one step closer to taking our fight to Washington.”
About 40,000 mail-in ballots across Orange County were received by election officials on Tuesday, according to news reports citing Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley. Under state law, any ballot mailed on Election Day will also be counted, making it difficult for officials to estimate exactly how many votes are left to count.
The district is home to nearly 400,000 registered voters and encompasses Lake Forest, Irvine, Rancho Santa Margarita, and portions of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin, Laguna Woods and Laguna Hills.
According to the latest data from the registrar, Republicans hold the majority of voters at 38 percent, while Democrats trail at 30 percent of voters. The no party preference voters make up nearly 27 percent of the district.
Walters, a former state senator, easily won reelection in 2016 by 17 percentage points and crushed her opponent by over 30 percentage points in 2014 when she was first elected to the House of Representatives.
No Republican ran against Walters this primary election and four Democrats and one no party preference voters were on the ballot.
Like the 39th Congressional District, the Republican majority in the 45th district has been slowly dropping over the years. In 2012, Republicans held nearly 45 percent of the vote. In 2014 they had 43 percent, slightly dipping to 42 percent in 2016.
However, Democratic numbers haven’t significantly increased during that time frame. The no party preference voters grew to nearly 27 percent of the district, slightly up from 24 percent in 2012.
Like the 39th Congressional District, the Republican majority in the 45th district has been slowly dropping over the years. In 2012, Republicans held nearly 45 percent o the vote, in 2014 they had 43 percent, slightly dipping to 42 percent in 2016.
During the 2016 presidential election, the district voted for Hillary Clinton over then-candidate Donald Trump by a margin of over 5 percentage points.
Walters raised $2.5 million up to May 16 — $1 million more than any of her opponents.
Democrat candidate and former senior technology advisor in the Obama administration, Brian Forde raised $1.4 million, followed closely by Democrats Katie Porter and David Min. Both are UCI professors and raised $1.1 million each.
Kia Hamadanchy, a former U.S. Senate staff member, is behind with $620,000 with raised May 16.
Like the other contested Congressional Districts in Orange County, all the Democratic candidates have no elected officeholder experience. Some local elections specialist and experts have said that could hurt the Democrats’ chances in the congressional races.
Elections specialist and Chapman University professor Mike Moodian previously told Voice of OC that Forde could be a Democratic frontrunner if he had been able to raise more money. Because the district is still Republican, and Forde is a former Republican who comes from the telecommunications business field, he would have the best shot at pulling votes from the Republican voters, Moodian said.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter who covers south Orange County and Fullerton. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voice of OC reporter Thy Vo contributed to this article.