Eleven competitive congressional races in California that could ultimately determine the balance of power in the House of Representatives were too close to be announced on Wednesday.
Congressional campaigning on both sides of the aisle expressed cautious optimism as election officials continue to count votes, a process that could take weeks.
With the prospect of a majority in the House of Representatives, the entire nation could be in suspense over California’s notoriously sluggish count — a scenario few anticipated in the run-up to Election Day.
“I guess I’m surprised it’s coming to California in any way,” said Paul Mitchell, vice president of political data analysis firm PDI. “I expected Republicans to win 10 to 12 seats in the House of Representatives before they even got to California.”
In the 41st congressional district, Democrat Will Rollins topped Rep. Ken Calvert — the longest-serving GOP member in California’s congressional delegation — by more than 7,500 votes with just 37% of ballots counted Wednesday.
Calvert’s previous opposition to gay rights may have hurt him in Coachella Valley’s large LGBTQ community, Mitchell said, which may be one reason early results tipped toward Rollins, who is gay.
Rollins remains confident, saying in an interview with The Times that “we have a feeling we’re going to win this one”.
“There’s still a long way to go and we know it’s going to be close, but that’s a pretty strong lead,” he said.
Calvert’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
On Tuesday, chatter of an impending national “red wave” could be heard at the Orange County nightclub where GOP Congressional hopeful Scott Baugh and others were gathering to await election results.
Sentiment at the packed club soured when the results came in, but Baugh, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Katie Porter to represent Orange County’s 47th congressional district, remained optimistic.
“As you know, early returnees in California always favor the Democrats. How many of you voted on Election Day?” he asked the crowd as hands shot up. “They will reverse the current results and take us to the top by midnight.”
At midnight, Baugh was behind Porter by less than 1,000 votes. Less than a day later, Porter’s lead had grown slightly to around 1,500 votes.
On Wednesday, the mood in Porter’s camp was one of cautious optimism. In 2018, it took 11 days for the race between Porter and Republican Mimi Walters to be called.
“With tens of thousands of ballots yet to be counted, our campaign respects Orange County voters and will be patiently awaiting the results,” said campaign spokeswoman Lindsay Reilly.
The popularity of mail-in ballots means results in many states, including California, can often take longer than voters typically expect, said Paul Gronke, professor of political science and director of the Elections and Voting Information Center at Reed College in Portland. Ore.
“It’s going to make it particularly difficult this year because the results are coming in at different speeds, and it’s going to open a window for people to charge wrongdoing,” he said.
Still, he added, just because vote counting takes longer doesn’t mean something’s wrong.
In the Central Valley’s 22nd District, Republican Rep. David Valadao topped Democratic Rep. Rudy Salas by about 3,300 votes, with just over a third of the votes counted.
In 2018, publications across the state declared Valadao the winner in his bid for re-election against his Democratic challenger. However, ballot counting continued through the end of November, and Valadao swept the race in early December.
Valadao admitted his campaign “always knew this race was going to be close,” but he hopes to return soon. Salas said he was patiently waiting for the votes to be counted.
There are many variables and caveats to the Golden State’s midterm races, making predictions difficult. The reversal of traditional voting methods during the pandemic, uncertainty about the state of democracy and even wet weather on Election Day could be factors.
Heavy rain over the weekend and Election Day may have prompted some voters to mail in ballots at the last minute rather than brave the elements to vote in person, Mitchell said.
More recently, more Republicans have voted in person on Election Day because conspiracy theories propagated by former President Trump and others have made them suspicious of voting by mail. And since the pandemic, more Democrats have turned to mail-in voting. Historically it was the other way around.
The uncertainty and breaking of norms are enough to make Mitchell throw up his hands.
“It’s everywhere,” he said. “We don’t know who voted on what scale.”
Times researcher Jennifer Arcand contributed to this report
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-11-09/california-midterm-election-congressional-races-too-tight-to-call Tight California congressional races could take weeks to call