The California primary June 5 could decide the fate of Congress in November. Republicans only hold 14 U.S. House seats here (out of a delegation of 53), and Democrats are targeting ten of them. In seven of those districts, Hillary Clinton won the presidential vote in 2016. Democrats hope to flip those districts in November to retake the House and re-install Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.
However, Republican fortunes have improved in recent months, ever since the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against California’s “sanctuary state” laws and inspired a revolt by conservative activists in Southern California.
In three key districts in Orange County, Democrats risk being shut out of the general election because of the bizarre rules of California’s “top two” or “jungle” primary, under which the top two vote-winners advance, regardless of party.
Here is the outlook for the state’s ten most contested districts.
CA-4 – Democrats hoped to oust conservative Rep. Tom McClintock, and one of his challengers, Jessica Morse, out-raised him in the first quarter of 2018. However, she has also been accused of padding her resumé, and will need to defeat several other Democratic challengers to qualify for the November ballot. McClintock looks safe.
CA-10 (voted for Clinton) – Incumbent Rep. Jeff Dunham is one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the country. His strategy for survival: run to the left. Dunham is leading the effort to use a “discharge petition” to force a U.S. House vote on immigration this year. That has led to a conservative backlash in his district, and could cost him in November.
CA-21 (voted for Clinton) – Rep. David Valadao has managed to win, historically, in this Democratic district. His primary will be uneventful, as he only has one Democratic opponent. His chances in November improved somewhat when well-known candidate Emilio Huerta, son of civil rights legend Dolores Huerta, suddenly dropped out of the race.
CA-22 – Democrats would love to unseat Rep. Devin Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and has led the fight to expose the Obama administration’s surveillance and “unmasking” of Trump campaign aides. But Nunes has looked stronger for November as the facts have fallen into place behind his theory of the case.
CA-25 (voted for Clinton) – Rep. Steve Knight’s district will be vulnerable in November, and he will face a Democrat, with no other Republicans in the “jungle” primary. However, Republicans are united behind him, and he was one of only two candidates in L.A. County to receive the party’s endorsement. (The other was Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.)
CA-39 (voted for Clinton, possible Democrat shutout) – Incumbent Ed Royce retired rather than face a tough re-eleciton fight. But a Republican surge behind opposition to California’s “sanctuary state” laws, and a bitter fight among the top Democratic contenders, mean that Republicans could actually finish 1-2 in the primary. The Cook Political Report now rates this race as a “toss-up.”
CA-45 (voted for Clinton) – The only Republican running is incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters, so she will face a Democrat in November. However, Walters is now thought to be in a relatively strong position, with rising Republican hopes in Orange County. She resisted pressure from wealthy taxpayers in the district to vote for President Donald Trump’s tax cut.
CA-48 (voted for Clinton, possible Democrat shutout) -Incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is known for two things: backing legal marijuana, and liking Russia. His district voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and he was scared enough that he opposed the Trump tax cut. But his Democratic opponents may knock each other out of the “jungle,” leaving him with a friendly GOP opponent.
CA-49 (voted for Clinton, possible Democrat shutout) – Republican Diane Harkey, a member of the California Board of Equalization, is leading the race to replace retiring Rep. Darrell Issa. She is a strong candidate in her own right, but may benefit from having too many strong Democratic opponents, as there is a chance they will split the vote and shut each other out of the November ballot.
CA-50 – Rep. Duncan Hunter is facing legal problems, which could hurt him in November. There were efforts to come up with an alternative Republican candidate earlier this year. However, given that the seat is historically a Republican one, no one is counting him out yet. He toured the border wall prototypes in March with the president.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.