LOS ANGELES — California is one of the most heavily Democratic states in the country, but Republicans this year are determined to regain a string of U.S. House seats the party lost to Democrats two years ago. President Donald Trump, who wants the House back under GOP control and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demoted, has said that with hard work Republicans “can pick up seven seats in the state of California.”
Tuesday’s primary election will set the stage for those November battles, which will play out in a state that is home to the so-called Trump resistance and where the president is widely unpopular outside his core GOP base.
Republicans currently hold a mere six of the state’s 53 House seats, with two vacancies. But the party wants to show it can bounce back, even in a state where Democrats control every statewide office, dominate both chambers of the Legislature and hold a 4.3-million edge in voter registrations.
The seven races in districts won by Democrats in 2018:
10th Congressional District
Venture capitalist Josh Harder grabbed this farm belt seat from Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in 2018. This time he’s facing challengers from both parties, including Republicans Ted Howze, a veterinarian, and Bob Elliott, a San Joaquin County supervisor. Democrats hold a registration edge in the district, though the state’s agricultural centers have long been known for Republicans who vote reliably and Democrats who often do not.
21st Congressional District
Trump recently called former Republican Rep. David Valadao “an incredible guy” he wants back in Washington. But to get there, he’ll need to defeat the Democrat who narrowly beat him in 2018, Rep. TJ Cox. The district has a deceptively large Democratic registration edge — Valadao held the seat for several terms before Cox’s 2018 victory. They are among four candidates on the ballot.
25th Congressional District
This swing district north of Los Angeles is vacant after Democratic Rep. Katie Hill resigned amid a sex scandal and House ethics probe last year. Leading Democrats include Christy Smith, a state legislator backed by the party establishment, and online news personality and progressive Cenk Uygur. The GOP field includes former Rep. Steve Knight, who lost the seat to Hill in 2018, former Navy combat pilot Mike Garcia and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who served a two-week prison sentence for lying to the FBI about his interactions with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 campaign.
39th Congressional District
Voters in the closely divided, diverse district anchored in Orange County could end up seeing a rematch between first-term Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros and Republican Young Kim. Cisneros claimed the seat in 2018, one of four Republican-held districts all or partly in Orange County that Democrats claimed two years ago, a stunning realignment in a county once known as a national GOP stronghold.
45th Congressional District
Rep. Katie Porter proved that even a progressive can win in the heart of what was once California’s “Reagan country” in a district with a Repubican tilt. The law professor and protégé of presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren snatched the Orange County seat in 2018 from Republican Rep. Mimi Walters. This time, Porter is the sole Democrat on the ballot and a handful of Republicans are dueling for a chance to challenge her, including Laguna Hills City Councilman Don Sedgwick, Yorba Linda Councilwoman Peggy Huang and Lisa Sparks, dean of Chapman University’s School of Communications.
48th Congressional District
Democrat Harley Rouda pushed out long-serving Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in this Orange County district in 2018 in an upset. The coastal district retains a Republican registration edge, but Rouda exposed its shifting politics with his surprise win. The leading Republican in the race is Michelle Steel, who heads the county Board of Supervisors.
49th Congressional District
First-term Rep. Mike Levin is defending his seat against Republican Brian Maryott, the only candidates on the ballot. The district anchored in San Diego County has a small Republican registration edge but has been growing increasingly favorable for Democrats for years. Levin carried the district by nearly 13 points in 2018.