Two Democrat congressional incumbents including prominent star Rep. Katie Porter find themselves in tight races to hold onto their seats after early election results poured in last night.
The mixture of results reaffirms Orange County’s growing reputation as a “purple,” county, with a near even split between Republicans and Democrats over the county’s six congressional seats.
A 5 p.m. election result update tonight could show a shift in that dynamic however.
The closest race so far is in the 47th district, where Congresswoman Porter has a lead of just 938 votes over former Republican Scott Baugh, a former assemblyman.
Porter started off election night with a lead of over 20,000 votes beyond Baugh, but that lead shrank down under a 1,000 votes by the end of the night.
In a Wednesday statement to Porter’s supporters, her campaign staff said it was still unclear who had won the election and that she wanted to see every vote counted.
“In 2018, it took eleven days for Katie to be declared the winner,” Porter’s staff wrote in the statement. “Katie is so thankful for everyone.”
[Read: Orange County’s Congressional Races: Election Night Results]
Porter is one of the most prominent members of the House nationally with a large fundraising pool.
Democrats have a slight edge in the newly redrawn 47th district, with 35.6% of the 452,887 registered voters, while Republicans have 33.9%, according to the OC Registrar of Voters.
No party preference voters make up nearly 25% of the voters in her district, and could be the ones who ultimately decide this election.
In Wednesday phone interviews, local political science professors and election scholars pointed to redistricting as a factor to why Porter’s race was so close.
“The reality is that every 10 years we reshuffle the districts and she is an incumbent on the ballot, but she hasn’t served most of the people voting,” said Jodi Balma, a professor from Fullerton College. “They don’t know her as well.”
Balma said the race is too early to call and that it usually takes three weeks to count up all the votes.
Stephen Stambough, a Cal State Fullerton political science professor, said since Porter’s such a large Democratic presence, national Republicans poured a lot of money into the race.
“A lot of national Republican money came in to try to nationalize the race to unseat her where it’s just a ‘D’ vs an ‘R’ and it’s not about personal politics or relationships with the community,” he said.
As of early Wednesday about 636,000 ballots had been counted across OC.
Nearly 300,000 additional ballots are still being counted– plus an unknown number of mail-in ballots that hadn’t yet arrived at the county elections office.
Mail-in ballots can arrive after the election and still count as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day.
The other close race is in South Orange County and north San Diego County, where Democratic Congressman Mike Levin is holding onto a 3,644 vote lead over Republican Bryan Maryott.
The race is a rematch between Levin and Maryott, a fight Maryott originally lost by over 24,000 votes in 2020.
The other house races aren’t nearly as close, with incumbents on track to hold on to their seats.
In the 45th district, Republican Congresswoman Michelle Steel ended the night with over 12,000 votes over her opponent Democrat Jay Chen.
Chen briefly held a slight lead early in the night before Steel pulled ahead and expanded her lead as many of the in-person votes were counted.
In the 40th District, Republican Congresswoman Young Kim is holding a commanding lead over her challenger Dr. Asif Mahmood, with nearly 60% of the 170,000 votes cast so far – a 31,000 vote lead.
Mahmood posted on social media Tuesday night that he and his campaign are committed to seeing every ballot counted.
“We still believe there is a path to victory,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
In the 46th district, Democratic Congressman Lou Correa is sailing to reelection over his challenger Republican Christopher Gonzales, an unsurprising outcome in a district where just under half of registered voters are Democrats.
In the 38th district, which is largely focused in LA County with a small portion of north Orange County, Democrat Linda Sanchez is on track to beat her challenger, Republican Eric J. Ching from Walnut.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a Groundtruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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