As the dust begins to settle following the 2018 primary election Tuesday, one of the more interesting and surprising results was the narrow margin by which Democratic incumbent Rep. Jim Costa won.

Though the June snapshot of the race between Costa and Republican challenger Elizabeth Heng was not especially important — more of an opportunity to take the temperature of voters before the November runoff — the numbers are likely concerning for Costa, who has faced close calls against Andy Vidak and Johnny Tacherra in recent years.

Drew Phelps

Drew Phelps

News Analysis

Mail-in and provisional ballots are still trickling in and being counted, but, as of now, Costa holds a lead of fewer than 3,000 votes – a 52.9% to 47.1% margin.

Costa’s Outperforms His 2014 Primary

The Costa team may be soothed by the fact that this performance is an improvement from the most recent nail-biter. The 2014 primary saw Costa garner only 44.29% of the vote and then win by less than 2,000 votes in November to Tacherra.

I would still classify Heng as somewhat of a longshot, but to her credit, she has proven to be a capable fundraiser, receiving $249,777 in total contributions prior to June 5 after a later entry to the race.

In comparison, Costa has raised $998,286 in this cycle.

Heng Shows She’s a Serious Candidate

Furthermore, this primary outcome will undoubtedly boost Heng’s fundraising capability and prove her viability in a volatile district to national Republican donor groups.

At the least, these results indicate that this will be an election that forces Costa to campaign seriously. Democratic dollars that could be spent in districts targeted for the “blue wave” will have to be spent here to protect his seat.

At the most, Costa could be in for a real race that threatens his incumbency.

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