Harley Rouda has declared victory in a hotly contested California race against Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican dubbed “Putin’s favorite congressman” who is approaching his 30th year in office.
“The messaging of common sense for common ground has resonated with the voters and propelled us to victory,” Rouda said.
Rohrabacher won the Costa Mesa district along the coast of Orange County by 17 percentage points in 2016. The latest numbers have Rouda up by 4 percentage points — a lead that is likely to increase as more ballots come in.
In an interview with The Sacramento Bee 11 days before Election Day, Rouda expressed concern the race would be more tightly contested. When the first results came out showing him tied on election night, he grew increasingly optimistic.
“As we got closer to Election Day and saw the momentum we had, it did feel that what we were seeing in the vote count would allow us to make an earlier call than expected,” Rouda said.
Since Rouda’s victory declaration early Saturday, he has been on calls with some of his soon-to-be-colleagues on Capitol Hill. He said infrastructure and climate change will be the two issues at the top of his priority list because he thinks they have “the widest (bipartisan) support.”
Rouda said Rohrabacher has not yet called to congratulate him and “doesn’t know” if his opponent ever will. Rohrabacher’s campaign says it will comment once all the votes have been counted — which could be another two weeks or so, according to estimates from Neal Kelley, Orange County’s registrar of voters.
Andrew Eisenberger, a spokesman for Rohrabacher’s re-election campaign, said in a statement, “There are still more than 300,000 ballots remaining to count. Our volunteer observers are at the Registrar of Voters observing that process. We will have additional comment once the count is complete.”
The Associated Press officially called the race for Rouda around 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Rouda’s win could spell trouble in the coming days for three vulnerable California Republicans, where Democratic candidates are inching closer to victory.
In House District 10, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, trails Democratic challenger Josh Harder by 1.8 percentage points — a difference of 3,307 votes.
Republican Young Kim holds a narrow lead over Democratic challenger Gil Cisneros in District 39 — an Orange County area located by Fullerton. The two candidates are competing for the seat Republican Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, chose to vacate. Kim is fending off Cisneros with a 2,423-vote lead. She’s ahead of him by 1.4 percentage points.
Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters is clinging to a 1-point lead over Democratic challenger Katie Porter in District 45, which is located in an Orange County area covering Irvine. Walters leads by 2,009 votes.
The Associated Press on Friday night officially declared victory for Democrat Katie Hill in District 25, which is based in northern Los Angeles County. Hill unseated GOP incumbent Steve Knight.
Rouda said his win signals a shift in voter demographics and voter attitudes. “Most Americans are between the 20-yard lines. They support socially progressive ideas, but they also embrace fiscal responsibility. ... When any politician starts to get outside those norms in this district or elsewhere, I think they run the risk of veering too far away from what the American public really wants.”