The outcomes in a string of closely matched California US House races that could play into control of the chamber were still unsettled Friday, as millions of ballots remained uncounted in the nation's most populous state. More than a dozen races in the state continued to be in play, though only a handful were seen as tight enough to go either way. It takes 218 seats to control the House. Republicans had locked down 211 so far, with Democrats claiming 200. It could take days, or even weeks, to determine who gets the gavel next year, per the AP. Should Democrats fail to protect their slim majority, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield would be in line to replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.
In California, the primary battlegrounds are Orange County—a suburban expanse southeast of Los Angeles that was once a GOP stronghold but has become increasingly diverse and Democratic—and the Central Valley, an inland stretch sometimes called the "nation's salad bowl" for its agricultural production. One of the tightest races matches Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, a star of the party's progressive wing, against Republican Scott Baugh, a former legislator, in an Orange County district about equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Returns showed Porter expanding her narrow lead to 4,555 votes, or 51.2% to 48.8% for Baugh. Earlier, Porter's edge had been about 3,000 votes.
In another close contest in a Democratic-leaning district north of LA, Republican US Rep. Mike Garcia saw his comfortable edge over Democratic challenger Christy Smith dip slightly. His margin remained at 12 points, 56% to 44%. Democrats have long dominated California's congressional delegation, which is dropping to 52 seats next year from 53 seats because its population growth has stalled, though it remains the largest delegation in Congress. In the current term, Republicans hold only 11 of the 53 seats in the strongly Democratic state. With counting incomplete, Republicans claimed six races so far and were leading in six others. Democrats tallied wins in 30 seats and were leading in 10 other contests. In two of those races, only Democrats were on the ballot, meaning the party will hold control of those seats.
But much uncertainty remained. As of Thursday, nearly 5 million ballots remained uncounted statewide. East of LA, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert regained the lead after trailing Democrat Will Rollins. With about half the votes counted, Calvert held a 1-point edge. In the Central Valley's 22nd District, where about half the votes have been counted, an update showed Democrat Rudy Salas cutting into the lead held by GOP Rep. David Valadao, who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump. The two are divided by 5 points, after Valadao earlier had a more than 8-point advantage. In a competitive district anchored in San Diego County, Democratic Rep. Mike Levin saw his edge grow slightly against Republican businessman Brian Maryott. Levin holds a 4-point margin, with about two-thirds of the votes tallied.
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