Even When They Lost, California Democrats Made Big Gains in Republican Districts

Check out this chart.

This year, the Democratic Party targeted 10 Republican-held California congressional seats it felt it had a pretty good shot at flipping. In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in seven of these districts, including some reliably Republican ones Southern California. The decision to focus on those races partly paid off, though the final results aren’t in yet: three seats flipped, four stayed red, and three races are still too close to call.   

The results from those 10 districts already show that Democratic candidates improved their party’s performance across the board. In the seven decided races, this year’s candidates’ vote share was an average of eight percentage points higher than that of the 2016 Democratic candidates in their districts.

Democrats increased their vote share in all 10 of California’s hottest races


Some gains were impressive: Harley Rouda, who defeated Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, got 52 percent of the vote; the previous Democrat to challenge the 15-term incumbent got just 42 percent. Ammar Campa-Najjar also did 10 points better than his predecessor. The biggest jump was in the 22nd District, where Andrew Janz pulled in 12 points more than the Democratic candidate two years ago.

Though Campa-Najjar and Janz lost to Rep. Duncan Hunter and Rep. Devin Nunes, respectively, their performance illustrates the gains California Democrats made in heavily conservative districts. The Democrats in the four races where Republicans retained their seats improved their party’s vote share by an average of 8.9 points. 

The three Democrats who have won their races (so far) expanded their party’s vote share by an average of 6.8 points. Based on the most current vote tallies from the California secretary of state, Democrats in the three uncalled races have outperformed their predecessors by an average of 5.7 points.

A more complete assessment of how well the Democrats’ California strategy fared could take a little while: The final results in those last three races may not be known until Thanksgiving

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest