Donald Trump

OC Congressional Races: Democrat Rouda Leads 15-Term Incumbent Rohrabacher

Democrat Harley Rouda faced longtime Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the coastal 48th District in Orange County

Democrats succeeded Tuesday in winning back a majority in the House of Representatives, but some closely watched congressional races in Southern California were still too close to call early Wednesday morning.

The bulk of the seats targeted by Democrats in Tuesday's election are in the once-reliable Republican stronghold of Orange County, which has seen a liberal political shift over the years.

One of the most high-profile races pitted Democrat Harley Rouda, a real estate investor, against longtime Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the coastal 48th District in Orange County. Rouda, who portrays himself as a political moderate, is a former Republican who said he wants to protect health-care coverage and Social Security and Medicare. Rohrabacher, who has been criticized by Democrats for his close relations with Russia, opposed the Trump tax-cut package but backs the president's vocal stances on immigration.

Rouda has raised significantly more money in the race, saying he needs to spend heavily to have a chance at unseating a 15-term incumbent.

Rouda held a slim advantage early Wednesday morning, 51 percent to 49 percent with all precincts reporting.

Rohrabacher had not conceeded as of early Wednesday. NBC4 left a message with Rohrabacher's re-election campaign seeking comment, but had not heard back early Wednesday.

Two years ago, Democrat Hillary Clinton beat President Donald Trump in Orange County, the first time a Democrat won the county since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. That has encouraged Democrats, and for the first time the national organization has sent professionals to Orange County to help elect more Democrats to Congress.

39th Congressional District

In the 39th District in northern Orange County, Republican Rep. Ed Royce is stepping aside, and fellow Republican Young Kim appeared to be heading toward victory in the race to replace him. Kim maintained a lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros throughout Tuesday night's vote-tabulating, and held the lead early Wednesday as counting continued.

Cisneros, a noted philanthropist, won a $266 million Lottery jackpot in 2010 and injected $9 million of his own money into the race. Kim, a South Korean immigrant, worked for Royce for about 20 years before winning a seat in the state Assembly, where she served a single term. She is looking to become the first Korean American woman to win a congressional seat.

49th Congressional District

In the 49th District, which straddles Orange and San Diego counties and includes cities such as San Clemente and Oceanside, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is stepping aside after an unexpectedly narrow reelection win two years ago.

Mike Levin, a Democratic environmental lawyer, was holding a narrow lead over Republican state Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey in the race to replace Issa. Levin has never held political office, but he has served as the executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County. Prior to sitting on the Board of Equalization, Harkey served in the state Assembly from 2008 to 2014, representing southern Orange County. She also served on the Dana Point City Council. Harkey received Trump's endorsement in August and is a major backer of the campaign to repeal the state gas tax.

45th Congressional District

Republican Rep. Mimi Walters was targeted by Democrats in the 45th District, which covers a wide swath of Orange County, including Irvine, Lake Forest and Mission Viejo. But she appeared to be on pace to fight off a challenge from Democrat Katie Porter, a UC Irvine law professor who was critical of the Republican tax cuts and touted her role as a consumer advocate.

Walters has represented the district since 2014, and while it has become more Democratic, she easily won re-election in 2016 -- even as the district's voters supported Clinton over Trump. She has continued to preach tax cuts, backing the Republican-engineered tax cuts.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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