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California race to replace Nunes headed to June runoff

Republican Connie Conway waits for opponent to be called

Republican Connie Conway speaks at the state capitol in Sacramento in 2012, when she was minority leader of the state Assembly. Conway advanced to a runoff in a special primary Tuesday to fill former Rep. Devin Nunes' term in California's 22nd District.
Republican Connie Conway speaks at the state capitol in Sacramento in 2012, when she was minority leader of the state Assembly. Conway advanced to a runoff in a special primary Tuesday to fill former Rep. Devin Nunes' term in California's 22nd District. (Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images)

Republican former Assemblywoman Connie Conway advanced Tuesday to a runoff election to fill the remainder of ex-Rep. Devin Nunes’ term in California’s 22nd District, but no call had yet been made about whom she will face. 

With an estimated 63 percent of the vote counted at 2 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, Conway led the six-candidate, all-party field with 34.8 percent. Democrat Lourin Hubbard was second with 19.7 percent, followed by Republican Matt Stoll with 15.1 percent and Democrat Eric Garcia with 15 percent. 

Nunes resigned on Jan. 1 to run a new media enterprise for former President Donald Trump. That company hit a tumultuous patch recently, according to news reports. 

Under California law, a candidate in a special primary who wins more than 50 percent of the vote secures the office outright. Otherwise, the top two candidates meet in a runoff on June 7, which is the same day as the statewide primary for nominations in the November general election. 

The winner of the unexpired term, which runs through Jan. 3, has no clear advantage in seeking a full term in the 118th Congress that follows. That’s because California lost one seat to reapportionment and the new map shuffled district numbers and led to several incumbents running in new terrain.

[Redistricting shuffle makes race to succeed Nunes a low-key affair]

Neither Conway, a former Tulare County supervisor and Republican leader in the state Assembly, nor Hubbard, a state water department operations manager, is running in the November midterm elections. 

But two other potential contenders in the runoff, Garcia and Stoll, are running — in another district. They are on the June 7 ballot in the 21st District, where Democratic Rep. Jim Costa is defending his seat.

Now considered a safe Republican seat, redistricting made the 22nd District much more competitive seat in the November midterms, with GOP Rep. David Valadao running to defend it.

Because of those unusual circumstances, it’s difficult to find sweeping clues about this year’s coming midterm races from Tuesday’s special election. 

Fundraising was modest, with Conway raising $83,000 through March 16, and Hubbard raising $59,000, according to disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.

Stoll, a Navy veteran and business owner, had raised $221,000, and Garcia raised $206,000, but they were preparing to run in June as well.

Another candidate in the 22nd District special race, Republican Navy veteran Michael Maher, is also vying for the 21st District’s all-party primary. The sixth candidate was Republican Elizabeth Heng, a Stanford- and Yale-educated technology executive who ran unsuccessfully against Costa in 2018 in the 16th District. She was running last in the special election field despite being one of the top fundraisers with $215,000. Donors included Country First, the leadership PAC of Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger; and the Value In Electing Women PAC.

Though the national party committees didn’t put much focus on the special election, the race in November for the new 22nd District will be another story. State Assemblyman Rudy Salas is challenging Valadao for the seat, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently added Salas to its “Red to Blue” program. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates that race a Toss-up.

Inside Elections rates the race in the 21st District, where Costa faces Garcia, Stoll and Maher in the June primary, as Solid Democratic. If the new lines had been in place then, President Joe Biden would have carried the district by 20 points.

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