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California: Year of Change Kicks Off in Jungle Primaries

The year of change in California’s Congressional delegation officially kicked off on Tuesday.

It was the Golden State’s first regularly scheduled “jungle” primaries in a federal election cycle, and there was no lack of interesting finishes. Along with redistricting and retirements, it led to some contested primaries in a state unaccustomed to competitive House races. Under the new format, each district held only one primary contest, with the top two vote-getters — regardless of party — set to advance to the general election.

In the biggest shock of the night, it appears that the Democrats will not have a candidate on the general election ballot in the 31st district, where the party was poised to score a pickup. While the race hasn’t officially been called, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) finished behind Rep. Gary Miller (R) and state Sen. Bob Dutton (R) thanks to three other Democrats taking a combined 25 percent of the vote.

Many had thought Miller could become the first California Member to lose this cycle. But with 100 percent of precincts reporting, the Republican was in first place with 27 percent of the vote, followed by Dutton with 25 percent and Aguilar with 23 percent. This one could hurt in the Democrats’ hopes of regaining control of the House, with the Republican dodging a major bullet.

Here are the other highlights, by district (candidates certain to advance are in bold):

26th (89 percent of precincts reporting) — state Sen. Tony Strickland (R) 44 percent; state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) 26 percent; Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks (I) 19 percent.

Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief with Brownley appearing to escape the primary. It could have ended badly for the Democrats in this swing district had Parks, a one-time Republican, squeaked by. The race still has not been called, but Brownley appears headed for a competitive general election against Strickland.

30th (60 percent of precincts reporting) – Rep.  Brad Sherman (D) 42 percent; Rep. Howard Berman (D) 32 percent.

The race was called, so the Berman-Sherman Democratic battle will go on for another five months. Berman spent big but finished behind Sherman in the primary for this San Fernando Valley seat. Sherman currently represents about 60 percent of the district, giving him a name-recognition edge. A race that has already gotten a little nasty is poised to become one of the most expensive House races ever. The two combined to spend more than $5.5 million on the primary.

15th (100 percent of precincts reporting) – Rep. Pete Stark (D) 42 percent; Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell (D) 36 percent.

Stark, the 80-year-old liberal and fifth-longest-serving Member of the House, took just 42 percent of the vote in a three-way primary. That may not bode well for November, when he’ll face the 31-year-old Swalwell, who has so far outraised him.

Here are the rest of the California primaries to watch (candidates certain to advance are in bold):

1st (100 percent of precincts reporting) Doug LaMalfa (R) 38 percent; Jim Reed (D) 25 percent; Sam Aanestad (R) 14 percent. LaMalfa will be the next Congressman in this heavily Republican district.

2nd (100 percent of precincts reporting) — Jared Huffman (D) 37 percent; Dan Roberts (R) 15 percent; Norman Solomon 14 percent. The race for second place has not yet been called, but Huffman is the early favorite to win this liberal district — especially against Roberts.

8th (28 percent of precincts reporting) — Paul Cook (R) 16 percent; Jackie Conaway (D) 15 percent; Phil Liberatore (R) 15 percent; Gregg Imus (R) 13 percent. Even if Conaway advances to the general election, the Republican she faces will be the next Congressman in this heavily GOP district.

10th (100 percent of precincts reporting) — Rep. Jeff Denham (R) 48 percent; Jose Hernandez (D) 28 percent; Chad Condit (I) 15 percent. The district gives Denham an edge, but he’s a Democratic target.

21st (88 percent of precincts reporting) — David Valadao (R) 59 percent; John Hernandez (D) 22 percent; Blong Xiong (D) 19 percent. Valadao is favored to win this Central Valley seat, no matter which Democrat advances. National Democrats are rooting for Xiong.

24th (100 percent of precincts reporting) — Rep. Lois Capps (D) 46 percent; Abel Maldonado (R) 31 percent; Chris Mitchum (R) 21 percent. The district got much tougher for Capps, and she’s a top GOP target against Maldonado, the candidate national Republicans wanted.

41st (100 percent of precincts reporting) — John Tavaglione (R) 45 percent; Mark Takano (D) 36 percent. This Inland Empire district will feature a competitive race.

44th (100 percent of precincts reporting) — Rep. Janice Hahn (D) 60 percent; Rep. Laura Richardson (D) 40 percent. Hahn was already favored to win in November.

47th (99 percent of precincts reporting) — Alan Lowenthal (D) 34 percent; Gary DeLong (R) 29 percent; Steve Kuykendall (R) 11 percent. This Long Beach district should feature a competitive general election.

51st (99 percent of precincts reporting) — Juan Vargas (D) 46 percent; Michael Crimmins (R) 20 percent; Denise Moreno Ducheny (D) 16 percent. It appears there may not be a Democratic slugfest into November, as expected. If not, Vargas will be the next Congressman in this Latino majority district.

52nd (96 percent of precincts reporting) — Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) 41 percent; Scott Peters (D) 23 percent; Lori Saldaña (D) 22 percent. Bilbray has the edge here, but he’s a top Democratic target, no matter who ends up in second place.

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