California victories leave GOP poised to take control of US House of Representatives

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Two threatened Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives in California triumphed over Democratic challengers on Monday, helping to get the GOP in a seat to take control of the chamber amid a series of congressional races in the state in the game remained.

In a bitter battle southeast of Los Angeles, Republican Representative Michelle Steel defeated Democrat Jay Chen in a district specifically designed to give Asian Americans, who make up the largest group in the district, a stronger voice on Capitol Hill. It includes the largest Vietnamese community in the country.

East of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert scored a victory over Democrat Will Rollins. With 80% of the votes counted, Calvert, the longest-serving Republican in California’s congressional delegation, achieved a lead of nearly 5,500 votes in the contest.

Ten races in the state remained undecided as vote counting resumed, although only a handful were considered close enough to break either way.

It takes 218 seats to control the House of Representatives. Republicans have so far blocked 217 seats and Democrats 205.

Should Democrats fail to protect their weak majority, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield would replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

In the 45th District, anchored in Orange County, Steel, a South Korean immigrant seeking a second term in Congress, met Chen, a Navy reservist and the son of Taiwanese immigrants. The race was watched nationally to see what it says about the preferences of the Asian community.

The candidates initially made inflation and hate crimes against Asian Americans key issues. But the race took an ugly turn and most of it focused on accusations and blame.

Chen’s ads portrayed Steel as an extremist who would threaten abortion rights, while Republicans accused Chen of “racism” after he told supporters that an “interpreter” was needed to understand Steel’s remarks, arguing that Chen made fun of her accented English. Chen said he was referring to “convoluted talking points” that he thinks Steel uses to sidestep problems.

Steel also distributed flyers depicting Chen as a communist sympathizer, while Chen said his grandmother fled China to escape communist rule.

In California, the main battlegrounds of the houses are Orange County — a suburb southeast of Los Angeles that was once a GOP stronghold but has become increasingly diverse and democratic — and the Central Valley, an inland section sometimes referred to for its agricultural production called the nation’s salad bowl.

The closest remaining contest in the state emerged in the Central Valley, where Democrat Adam Gray grabbed a razor-thin lead after Republican John Duarte jumped ahead by 84 votes in the fight for a vacant seat in District 13.

Underscoring the tightness of the competition, Gray’s campaign formed a committee to begin raising money to fund a possible recount. These costs, paid to county election officials, are the responsibility of the campaign committee or voter requesting a recount. Such applications can usually only be made one month after the election.

The most recent results showed Gray leading by 761 votes, with almost 80% of the votes tabulated.

In Orange County, one of the state’s marquee races intensified as an updated vote count showed Republican Scott Baugh bisecting a narrow edge held by Democratic Rep. Katie Porter. Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, led former Rep. Baugh by about 2,900 votes — or just over a percentage point — with almost 80% of the vote being counted.

In another battlefield district north of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia held a comfortable lead over Democrat Christy Smith in his third straight match after Garcia won the first two.

The most recent results — about two-thirds of the votes counted — showed Garcia at 54.4% versus Smith’s 45.6%.

In a statement on Twitter, Smith said her chances of capturing the seat have “shrunk significantly” and “it’s likely Garcia will hold the seat.”

Democrats also had significant margins in several districts, including the Central Valley’s 9th District, where Democratic Rep. Josh Harder held a nearly 13-point lead over Republican Tom Patti.

In the Central Valley’s 22nd District, where about half of the votes were counted, Republican Rep. David Valadao, who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump, had a 5-point lead over Democrat Rudy Salas.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.

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