California has 53 congressional representatives, and right now 34 are Democrats and 19 are Republicans. Implementing the “top-two” primary and following district lines drawn by fellow citizens didn’t produce total chaos, but it certainly shook things up for current representatives who were getting cozy.
Ballots are still being counted and anything can happen between now and the November runoff, but here is how the numbers look in light of the June primary: Democrats 28, Republicans 14 and 11 seats still in play.
Of the current 34 Democrats in Congress, 19 will safely win re-election in November. Rep. Lynn Woolsey is retiring and her area (District 2, North Coast) will be won by Democrat Jared Huffman if he ends up facing a Republican in November, which seems likely.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza also is retiring, but it’s not clear which party will take over his former district (District 16, Merced). Rep. Bob Filner is not running for re-election (he’s running for mayor of San Diego) but Democrat Juan Vargas will win Filner’s old territory of District 51 (eastern San Fernando Valley). So that’s 21 Democratic votes.
In November, we’ll see four runoffs where one new Democrat threatens the tenure of an incumbent Democrat, and two runoffs between two Democratic incumbents fighting it out for the same district. Whatever the outcome, at least two Dems will be leaving Washington, D.C., and the total votes for Democrats will be at 27.
Add in the open seat of District 29, and the number jumps to 28.
Despite the new district lines, 11 Republicans already in Congress appear to be safe. Republican Reps. Wally Herger (District 1, Northeast California), Jerry Lewis (District 8, San Bernardino High Desert), David Dreier (District 32, West Covina) and Elton Gallegly (District 26, Ventura County) have each announced they will retire. Herger and Lewis’ seats will remain Republican, but Dreier’s former district will go to Democrat Grace Napolitano and Gallegly’s former area is up for grabs. For those of you keeping score, we will see the loss of four senior Republicans on important congressional committees, but still have 13 safe Republican seats.
Republican incumbent Gary Miller (District 31, San Bernardino) will be in the only GOP vs. GOP runoff we’ll see in November. Regardless of the outcome, that race brings the Republican vote total to 14.
But three GOP incumbents will have a tougher time keeping their seats: Rep. Dan Lungren in District 4 (East Sacramento County), Rep. Jeff Denham in District 10 (Stanislaus) and Rep. Brian Bilbray in District 52 (San Diego).
Four current Democratic members of Congress also will have a challenging re-election against GOP candidates.
Rep. John Garamendi in District 3 (Sacramento and Solano), Rep. Jerry McNerney in District 9 (East Bay and Central Valley), Rep. Jim Costa in District 16 (Merced) and Rep. Lois Capps in District 24 (Santa Barbara) are all in races that will be close in November.
Because of redistricting, there are new districts with no incumbents where either side still has a shot: District 26 (Ventura County), District 21 (Kings), District 47 (Long Beach) and District 41 (Riverside).