The vote count is trickling along in California, where Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will face Republican John Cox in November, but the spotlight is on Democrats’ efforts to avoid getting locked out of the general election in key battleground House districts.
The top-two primary system has had Democrats sweating in several California seats, including Orange County-based districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, where large numbers of Democratic candidates could split the party’s votes and allow two Republicans to progress to the November general election.
It’s a nightmarish possibility for Democrats, who are hoping to make significant inroads in California as part of their effort to undo Republicans’ 23-seat edge Republicans have in the House. But as the votes were tallied Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Democrats were in position to grab general election slots in every target district though by very slim margins in some.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Democrat Hans Keirstead currently sit in the top two slots in the 48th District, with Democrat Harley Rouda just behind Keirstead but Republican Scott Baugh was less than 1 point behind in the race for second place. Democrats had more breathing room elsewhere in Orange County: Republican Young Kim has qualified for the general election and Democrat Gil Cisneros has a big cushion in second place in the 39th District. And in the race to replace retiring Rep. Darrell Issa in the 49th District, a lockout looks unlikely, with three Democrats bunched behind Republican nominee Diane Harkey.