SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – After rampant speculation that California’s ruthless “top-two” primary system could cause both Democrats and Republicans to be without candidates in critical races come November, party backers on both sides of the aisle woke to good news Wednesday.
Despite clogging congressional contests with a horde of fresh and mostly unknown candidates, Democrats will have the chance to flip several Republican-held seats in districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democratic candidates advanced in many vulnerable Republican districts in places like Los Angeles and San Diego, keeping alive the fabled “blue wave” this fall.
In northern San Diego, where Republican incumbent Rep. Darrell Issa is retiring, voters will have a choice between red and blue. Republican Diane Harkey won the primary with 25 percent of the vote and will face either Mike Levin or Sara Jacobs.
Pundits have identified the 49th Congressional District as one of the most vulnerable of California’s Republican held seats. Issa won re-election in 2016 by the narrowest margin of any congressional race – less than 1 percent of the vote.
Activists from across California flocked to San Diego to help “flip the 49th.”
Christine Wei traveled nearly 500 miles from San Francisco to do neighborhood canvassing, phone banking and data entry. She says Trump’s election spurred her to become politically engaged.
“There’s urgency. Whether we get the numbers in the House this year will have a deep impact on getting things done at the federal level,” Wei said.
Farther north on Interstate 5, voters in Orange and Los Angeles counties also sent through a Democrat in a traditionally red congressional district.
Gil Cisneros narrowly held off Phil Liberatore for second place and will challenge primary winner Young Kim in the 39th Congressional District.
Democrats are also celebrating in the nearby 25th Congressional District after Katie Hill clinched second place in a district also held by a Republican incumbent.
The district – where Democrats outnumber Republicans by only 3.7 percent – has been marked as pivotal in the fight for control of the House.
According to election results, Hill, 30, barely edged her nearest rival by receiving 20 percent of the more than 78,000 votes cast. Incumbent Republican Steve Knight – seeking his third term in the office – received 53 percent of the vote with all 312 precincts reporting.
Hill, a former director of an LA-based homeless services nonprofit, thanked her supporters and volunteers “from the bottom of my heart” on Twitter Tuesday evening.
In a statement Wednesday, Hill said: “I am so grateful for the support of my community. I am committed to being an independent voice for this district and will fight every single day to rebuild the middle class, take big money out of politics and improve our health care system for all."
She also thanked her Democratic opponents and vowed to "flip this district and take back the House."
But Republicans didn’t come up empty-handed either: Voters sent a President Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate through to the November runoff.
San Diego businessman John Cox, buoyed by a recent spate of friendly tweets from Trump, finished second to Democrat Gavin Newsom in the chase to replace four-term Gov. Jerry Brown. Cox bested third place-finisher Antonio Villaraigosa by a wide margin, creating a traditional Democrat-versus-Republican showdown.