LOS ANGELES (AP) — The outcome of a series of closely backed US home races in California that could take control of the chamber remained unclear on Friday as millions of ballots went uncounted in the nation’s most populous state.
More than a dozen races in the state remained in play, although only a handful were deemed close enough to go either way. It takes 218 seats to control the House of Representatives. Republicans had 211 suspended for a long time, Democrats claimed 200.
It could take days or even weeks to determine who gets the gavel next year.
Should Democrats fail to protect their slim majority, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield would replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco.
In California, the key battlegrounds are Orange County — a suburb southeast of Los Angeles that was once a GOP stronghold but has become increasingly diverse and democratic — and the Central Valley, a landlocked country sometimes referred to as the nation’s salad bowl for its agricultural output.
One of the closest races pitted Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, against Republican Scott Baugh, a former lawmaker, in an Orange County district roughly equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.
Returns showed Porter extending her narrow lead to 4,555 votes, or 51.2%, to 48.8% for Baugh. Porter’s lead had previously been around 3,000 votes.
In another close encounter in a Democratic district north of Los Angeles, Republican US Rep. Mike Garcia saw his comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Christy Smith slip slightly. Its margin stayed at 12 points, 56% to 44%.
The Democrats have long dominated the California congressional delegation, which will fall from 53 seats to 52 over the next year because its population growth has stalled, though it remains the largest delegation in Congress.
In the current term, Republicans hold just 11 of the 53 seats in the heavily democratic state.
At an incomplete count, the Republicans have won six races so far and led in six others.
Democrats had victories in 30 seats and led in 10 other contests. Two of those races had only Democrats on the ballot. meaning the party will retain control of those seats.
But a lot of uncertainty remained. As of Thursday, nearly 5 million ballots remained uncounted nationwide.
East of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert retook the lead after trailing Democrat Will Rollins. With about half of the votes counted, Calvert had a 1-point lead. Calvert, first elected in 1992, is the longest-serving Republican in California’s congressional delegation.
In the Central Valley’s 22nd district, where about half the vote was counted, an update showed Democrat Rudy Salas taking the lead from Republican Rep. David Valadao, who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump. The two will be separated by 5 points after Valadao had previously been more than 8 points clear.
In an embattled district anchored in San Diego County, Democratic Rep. Mike Levin saw his lead over Republican businessman Brian Maryott widen slightly. Levin has a 4-point lead with about two-thirds of the votes counted.
President Joe Biden was in the district in the final days of the campaign in hopes of increasing Levin’s chances.
Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms.