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Democrat Mike Levin was ahead of Republican Diane Harkey by 5,734 votes or just over four percentage points in the 49th Congressional district race, according to combined return data election night from Orange County and San Diego County registrars of voters.

Almost all of the Election Day votes on electronic voting machines have been counted, though there remain an unknown number of mail-in and provisional ballots left to count.


Editor’s Note: This article is updated with new counts on election night. The final update to the article was at 1:54 a.m. See an archive below of each Voice of OC update.


Republicans held a little more than a four-point edge in voter registration districtwide, as of Oct. 26. But, in San Diego County, it was the first time since new district lines were drawn in 2011 that Democrats took a slim lead over Republicans in voter registration by 838 voters. In Orange County, Republicans outnumber Democrats by 18,000 voters. Most of the district is in coastal northern San Diego County, but it includes the southern tip of Orange County.

The Republican point advantage has been slowly shrinking since 2012, when the GOP had a 13-point margin over Democrats in voter registration. During that time, the no party preference voters grew from 24 percent to nearly 28 percent.

An Oct. 24 poll from the New York Times showed Levin ahead of Harkey by 14 points, up from the Sept. 23 poll that showed him at a 10-point lead.

In the June 2018 primary election, Democratic candidates garnered 51 percent of the vote, while Republican candidates had 48 percent of the vote, according to Political Data Inc.

Voter turnout for the 2018 June midterm primary election was 47 percent — higher than the 2014 November midterm general election at 45 percent. The 2014 June midterm primary turnout was just 25 percent.

Levin, a 40-year old environmental attorney who pushes for clean energy, had been campaigning since March 2017. Harkey, the 67-year old former Assemblywoman, didn’t enter the race until January when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) announced he would not seek reelection. She took stances against the state’s 12-cent gas tax and spoke at Yes on Proposition 6 events organized by Republican Carl Demaio, a former San Diego city councilman.  

During their first debate at NBC San Diego studios Oct. 2, moderators asked the two candidates where they differ from their party leaders.

Harkey said she differs with President Donald Trump on some environmental issues, said she’s against offshore drilling and criticized the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions included in the Republican tax bill.

“I also had a little bit of pause with the tax reform bill … help us get more SALT refund from the property tax,” Harkey said.  

Levin, a political newcomer, said “I think I’m more aggressive when it comes to clean energy … I think we need to get over our dependence on fossil fuels as soon as we can.”

Harkey also touted the economy during the NBC debate, while Levin said the tax bill needs to be reworked to improve the economy.

“I don’t think that you can deny economically that we are moving forward … the biggest problem we have in this district is finding qualified people for these positions and that’s a good thing to have,” Harkey said of businesses not being able to hire enough employees.

Once considered a Republican stronghold, election handicapper websites Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report considered the 49th Congressional district leaning Democratic.

[9:15 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 6] The first reported election counts show Levin ahead of Harkey by nearly six percentage points, or roughly 6,500 votes.

[11 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 6] Levin’s lead from both Orange and San Diego Counties shrank to about 5,500 over Harkey — roughly five percentage points. The voting data includes precinct ballot counts.

[1:30 a.m. Nov. 7] Levin’s lead increased by nearly 250 votes to 5,734.

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter who covers south Orange County and Fullerton. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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