(CN) – A week ago on Election Night, Republicans had cause to believe the seawall they built against the predicted “blue wave” in California was going to hold up. Now, it looks like the wave will wash away the GOP’s remaining hopes for relevance in the Golden State as many of the slender leads held by congressional incumbents in competitive races have either vanished or narrowed.
On Election Day, California had races for House seats held by Republicans in districts Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. One day later, it looked like the GOP had a good chance of holding on to three, maybe even four of them. Now they appear poised to lose all but one – and even that race has grown closer.
Democrats have been declared winners in four of the seven races, while two remain too close to call. In the seventh, Democrats hope declarations of a Republican victory may be premature.
On Tuesday night, The Associated Press called the race in the 10th Congressional District, reporting Republican incumbent Jeff Denham had been ousted by Democratic challenger Josh Harder. Encompassing all of Stanislaus County and a portion San Joaquin County in the agriculture-rich Central Valley, the 10th has been a bastion for the GOP as their influence waned in most of the state’s coastal areas. Denham’s loss represents a severe blow to the Republican Party both nationally and in California.
Denham joins fellow Republicans Steve Knight of the 25th Congressional District and Dana Rohrabacher of the 48th on the list of incumbents tossed by voters in favor of Democrats. While Knight and Denham have conceded, Rohrabacher – whose name came up in association with Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election – has refused, but Democrat Harley Rouda had amassed about 8,500 more votes and the AP has called the race for Rouda.
Other races tighten
Rohrabacher’s loss underscores an overall trend in Orange County, once the de facto capital for traditional conservatives in California.
Republican Mimi Walters, who represents District 45 in the heart of Orange County, held a 6,000-vote lead over Democratic challenger Katie Porter on election night. That lead has since vanished and Porter had just 261 votes more than Walters late Tuesday as the count continues.
Meanwhile, the race between Republican Young Kim and Democrat Gil Cisneros to fill Ed Royce’s recently vacated seat in District 39 has tightened significantly, with only 830 votes separating the two in a district that straddles northern Orange County and southern Los Angeles County.
Kim still leads and has declared victory, with her campaign echoing comments by President Donald Trump suggesting foul play may be responsible for Democratic gains in her race as well as close races across the nation. The longtime aide to Royce attended the freshman congressional orientation on Tuesday even as counting continued.
With Democrat Mark Levin ready to take the seat being vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa in San Diego and Orange counties, if Cisneros and Porter prevail the Republicans will have managed to hold only one seat in the seven competitive races targeted by the Democratic party: District 21.
In that district, also in the Central Valley, Republican incumbent David Valadao has already been declared the winner by The Associated Press. But his once-commanding lead over Democratic challenger T.J. Cox has fizzled considerably over the past week, with just 2,000 votes now separating them.
Most pundits do not believe the trickle of absentee ballots will be sufficient for Cox to surmount the gap, but the Democrat has yet to concede.
Regardless of the outcome in District 21, if the GOP loses the other two races currently too close to call Democrats will have executed a complete takeover of Orange County. The party will also hold all coastal seats in the Golden State – successfully creating the blue wave so many California Democrats dreamed of and Republicans feared.
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