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Election 2014: Incumbents show strength amid tight early US House returns

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Early primary election returns Tuesday showed tight races for U.S. House seats from San Diego to Sacramento, though incumbents were showing strength. Republicans were expected to hold on to the House despite Democrats making a run to regain control.

Highlights:

Update 12:11 a.m. Ted Lieu on why his campaign connected

Ted Lieu finished second in the West LA Congressional race and will face Republican Elon Carr in the runoff. Lieu celebrated his success with supporters Tuesday night, saying why he thought his campaign connected with voters.

"It was positive, so that was helpful," Lieu said, "and also I talked about job creation and protecting our environment and increasing transportation funding — some of the core issues that we're dealing with here in California and the nation — and just being relentlessly positive the whole campaign."

Update 11:04 p.m. Tough fights mark key California US House races 

Several vulnerable U.S. House freshmen were in tight contests Tuesday in California's congressional races, as Democrats sought to gain ground in the party's longshot bid to reclaim majority control in Washington.

In the 52nd District in San Diego, where Republicans hold a slight registration edge, freshman Democrat Scott Peters was in close quarters with former San Diego City Council member Carl DeMaio, who could become the House's first openly gay Republican.

Early votes showed Republican Elan Carr grabbing a lead in a strongly Democratic coastal district, held for decades by retiring Rep. Henry Waxman. The contest among 10 Democrats was shaping up as a close race between state Sen. Ted Lieu and former Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel.

In other top races:

  • Former congressman Doug Ose claimed the second spot, ahead of two other Republicans, to earn a chance to challenge freshman Democrat Ami Bera in November in the closely divided 7th District in suburban Sacramento.
  • In the competitive 26th District in Ventura County, freshman Democrat Julia Brownley will face GOP Assemblyman Jeff Gorell in November, a former prosecutor who served in Afghanistan.
  • A potential Democrat-against-Democrat runoff was taking shape in the suburban San Francisco 17th District, were seven-term Rep. Mike Honda was running ahead of Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration appointee.
  • In the San Bernardino-area's 31st Congressional District, Democrats are eager to take control of the seat after the retirement of Republican Rep. Gary Miller. But Iraq War veteran and security consultant Paul Chabot, a Republican, advanced to the runoff, with several candidates dueling for the second trip to November.
  • House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was claiming nearly three of four votes in her San Francisco district and will face Republican John Dennis in November.

— AP

Update 10:41 p.m. Incumbents continue to rack up primary wins

Incumbents continue to hold strong in Southern California elections Tuesday evening. Winners since our last update include Republican Dana Rohrabacher, Democrat Xavier Becerra, Democrat Loretta Sanchez, Democrat Brad Sherman, Democrat Mike Honda, Democrat Tony Cardenas, Democrat Lois Capps, Republican Paul Cook, and Democrat Dave Peiser.

KPCC staff with AP

Update 9:36 p.m. Republican David Valadao holds off Democratic opposition 

Republican David Valadao has topped the field in one of California's closely watched U.S. House races, setting up a November showdown with one of two Democrats in a district carried easily by President Barack Obama in 2012.

The 21st District seat is a top target for Democrats, as the party seeks to gain ground in a longshot bid to reclaim majority control in the House.

Other California U.S. House nominations included Democrat Nancy Pelosi in the 12th District, Republican Tom McClintock in the 4th District, Republican Jeff Denham in the 10th District, Republican Ken Calvert in the 42nd District and Democrat Jerry McNerney in the 9th District.

AP

Update 9:10 p.m. Early returns show tight California US House races

Early primary election returns Tuesday show tight races for U.S. House seats from San Diego to Sacramento, as Democrats hoped to gain ground in a longshot bid to reclaim majority control in Washington.

An 18-candidate free-for-all is underway in a coastal district that includes Malibu and Beverly Hills, where the candidates range from best-selling author Marianne Williamson to gang prosecutor Elan Carr.

RELATED: KPCC's 2014 June primary coverage

Freshman Democrat Scott Peters is trying to hold off several Republicans in his San Diego district. And former congressman Doug Ose jumped ahead of several Republicans who want a chance to challenge Democrat Ami Bera in the closely divided 7th District in suburban Sacramento.

Rep. Adam Schiff easily topped the field in the Los Angeles area 28th District. Early returns showed him seizing three of four votes over two challengers.

In the competitive 26th District in Ventura County, freshman Democrat Julia Brownley will face GOP Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, a former prosecutor who served in Afghanistan.

No incumbent appeared in danger Tuesday. Under state election rules, only the two candidates who receive the most primary votes advance to the November general election, regardless of party affiliation.

Democrats have a steep climb to seize power in the House and the party needs to flip seats inCalifornia to have any hope of assuming majority status next year.

Other competitive contests included the San Bernardino-area's 31st Congressional District, where Democrats are eager to take control of the seat after the retirement of Republican Rep. Gary Miller.

Democratic Party officials are eager for a reprise of 2012, when California provided four of the eight House seats the party gained nationally. Meanwhile, Republicans intend to end their long slide in California and use the state to expand their controlling House margin.

House Republicans have 233 seats and Democrats 199, with three vacancies. Redrawn congressional districts after the 2010 census favored Republicans nationally, and the party that holds the White House historically has lost seats in elections at this point in a president's term. So a change of House control is considered a longshot.

The so-called "top-two" primary could set up fall showdowns between candidates from the same party, which happened in 2012.

Departing House members have provided a handful of open seats, including districts held by long-serving Democrat Henry Waxman and Republican Howard "Buck" McKeon, who heads the Armed Services Committee.

California once was a stronghold for entrenched incumbents, where district lines were drawn by political insiders to create lopsided contests that virtually ended competition. But voters shifted the job of crafting district boundaries to an independent commission, and the state now features some of the most competitive House races in the country.

Democrats have been fretting about the likelihood of a paltry turnout that could leave their candidates vulnerable, while Republicans are bargaining that opposition to President Barack Obama and his health care overhaul will motivate their ranks.

Bera's district is about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, and he's the only Democrat on the ballot, making it likely he will survive the primary. Competition on the GOP side has been fierce among tea party favorite Igor Birman, who could become the first member of Congress born in the former Soviet Union, Ose and Elizabeth Emken, who has previously run for the House and U.S. Senate.

The most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the general election appear to be four freshmen. In addition to Bera, they are Reps. Raul Ruiz from the Coachella Valley, Peters in San Diego and Brownley in Ventura County.

Democrats have targeted Republican Rep. David Valadao, whose farm-belt district south of Fresno has a Democratic tilt.

AP

Previously: Congressional candidates vie for spot in November runoff

As is custom every two years, every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is on the ballot. After Tuesday's election, Republicans are expected to retain control of the House, which will continue to be a challenge for the Obama administration. There are Senate seats on ballots in some states — though not in California — and the GOP is hoping to get control there as well.

In Southern California, the key congressional race is the one to succeed longtime West L.A. Democrat Henry Waxman, who is retiring after 40 years on Capitol Hill. There are 18 contenders on the 33rd District ballot, including state Sen. Ted Lieu, former L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel and radio talk show host and former Clinton administration official Matt Miller.

The Democrats could split the vote enough to allow a surprise candidate into the runoff — either spiritual author Marianne Williamson, or Republican Elan Carr, an attorney and war veteran.

Williamson's election night party is being held at the Marriott in Marina del Rey, and a spokeswoman said they expected 300 people to attend. Volunteers in Williamson T-shirts were hanging around the lobby bar. The actual party was set for the penthouse ballroom.

The vibe at Williamson's party was positive. Volunteers said they've been up since 5 a.m. Many were stationed at Westside intersections where they waved signs in support of the spiritual speaker and bestselling author.

Marianne tweet

Former opponent Brent Roske, who dropped out and endorsed Williamson, was in attendance. Roske spoke with KPCC on the Williamson's party's penthouse balcony.

 
"As far as a mouthpiece for the different issues, she is the one you want to put in the room," Roske said. "You know it starts with ideas, it starts with a conversation and she has the power and complete fire-driven rage to make sure that her ideas are known."

Of his friendship with Williamson, Roske said, "We started a very close and trusted relationship and it was very honest."
 
He described running for office as going to a DMV and inviting everybody back to your home. He also said he would absolutely run for office again.

Another race to watch is the 31st Congressional District in the Inland Empire, where Republican Gary Miller is retiring. Democrats have the advantage among registered voters, and the candidates from that party include Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes and former Congressman Joe Baca. The Republican candidates include former Miller aide Lesli Gooch and military veteran Paul Chabot.

This story has been updated.

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