Darrell Issa clinches re-election to US House; state senate race goes to Democrat

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) leads a hearing on the Benghazi attacks. Issa narrowly won re-election this year.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) leads a hearing on the Benghazi attacks. Issa narrowly won re-election this year.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican congressman Darrell Issa has clinched a tight race for re-election to the House of Representatives. The Associated Press made a call in the race Monday afternoon, declaring Issa the winner.

Issa fought off a challenge from retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate in California's 49th Congressional District, representing parts of Orange and San Diego counties. Issa was first elected to the seat in 2000.

A reliable conservative who has been one of President Barack Obama's most vocal critics, Issa took the unusual step during the campaign of sending out a mailer with the image of Obama signing a bill Issa authored — a move Obama called "shameless."

Democrats had targeted Issa's seat, hoping that the staunchly conservative positions taken by Issa would be deemed out of step with Californians. But ultimately, voters in the 49th House District chose to send Issa back to Washington, D.C.

Issa released a statement in response to the AP's call:

Getting to serve the people of Southern California has been one of the greatest honors of my life and I am humbled at the chance to continue fighting for them in Congress. I thank the voters for putting their faith and support behind me and look forward at all we’ll be able to accomplish together in the next two years.

I’m proud of all we’ve been able to get done, but we still have so much more to do. I am eager to continue working to advance the best interests of the American people and restoring the focus of Washington where it belongs: Economic prosperity, national security and government accountability. With our newly unified government, we have the opportunity to lead the country in a new – and better – direction.

That last sentence alludes to Donald Trump's victory in the presidential race, and Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Issa was a strong supporter of Trump, appearing at a rally for the candidate in May.

Issa, like Trump, made a fortune in business before wading into politics. Issa is the richest member of Congress, having amassed his fortune in the car alarm business.

According to Rob Pyers, who analyzes elections for the California Target Book, Issa's victory means that no California congressional seats flipped from one Republicans to Democrats this year.

Democrat comes from behind to win crucial state senate race

In a closely watched race in another corner of Southern California, Democrat Josh Newman defeated Republican Ling Ling Chang in their contest for a state senate seat. The Associated Press called the race this evening.

The victory for Newman gives democrats a supermajority in the senate, meaning they hold two-thirds of the seats. That could allow them to pass new taxes without a single Republican vote.

The campaigns had been monitoring the returns closely. "The trend in provisional ballot counting has been encouraging, and we are looking forward to seeing more results," Derek Humphrey, a Newman spokesman, told KPCC Monday, before the call.

Just a week ago, Chang held a 187-vote margin over Newman. But since then, as ballots continued to be counted, the lead flipped toward Newman, and only grew in the past week.

The 29th Senate district seat represents parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. The fact that the district crosses county lines means three groups of elections officials are involved in tallying votes. All three updated their totals Monday, and Newman's lead climbed to 2,136 votes.

Democrats had secured a supermajority in the state Assembly, but the senate supermajority hinged on this race.