California’s red save: GOP scores unexpected wins in Golden State despite national failures

Kevin Kiley
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, of Rocklin, a Republican candidate for governor in the Sept. 14 recall election, campaigns for school choice outside a charter school in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Kiley blasted Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for his leadership of the state. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)) Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California’s red save: GOP scores unexpected wins in Golden State despite national failures

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Despite the red wave that didn’t happen, California had a surprisingly strong showing among state and federal Republican candidates, giving hope for future elections, officials say.

“Wow! California may very well be the deciding factor in giving Republicans the House majority — or at least enough seats to have the ability to govern,” said Carl DeMaio, chairman of the grassroots PAC Reform California. “Not only are we breaking even, we are likely to add not just one seat but maybe more.”

Six incumbent Republicans will likely hold on to their House seats in the midterm election, while three more are in line to flip. One of those is a redrawn district with portions belonging to retired Rep. Devin Nunes, now likely taken by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a staunch conservative and one of the most vocal critics of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Others include freshman Rep. Michelle Steel, who flipped a seat in the last election, and Scott Baugh, who could take over Democrat Katie Porter’s district. Both are in Orange County.

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In the state legislature, where Democrats hold a supermajority, Republicans could likely retain 11 seats and flip three, DeMaio said.

Republican candidates also appear to have won local races throughout the state, including county, city, and school board, where slates of candidates were backed by Reform California. And Lanhee Chen is within 5 points of becoming California’s next controller, which would make him the sole Republican top statewide officeholder.

While Democrats have held on to all the top state offices, including governor, attorney general, treasurer, and secretary of state, Republicans were within 15 points of taking the lead as of Thursday, state returns show.

Republicans fielded candidates in all statewide elections for the first time since a 2010 constitutional amendment rewrote the election code to advance the top two candidates, regardless of party.

Between 4 and 6 million ballots statewide remain to be counted, said DeMaio, who surveyed several counties. California has more than 21.8 million registered voters, of which 47% are Democratic and 24% Republican.

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Despite these small gains, Republicans could have made a huge dent in the Democratic machine if more people had voted this election cycle, said constitutional law attorney Mark Meuser, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate. Meuser was defeated by incumbent Alex Padilla 58% to 41% as of Thursday morning.

“Four years ago, Republicans got destroyed by 33 points statewide. This year we are down only 18 points. That is a massive swing,” Meuser said. “Democrat turnout was extremely bad in the state and if Republicans had turned out like they did four years ago, we would be winning 20 to 25 congressional races and every statewide race.

“Yes, we closed the gap significantly because Democrat turnout was so abysmal, but we didn’t take advantage of it,” Meuser said.

Meuser pointed to his 2018 run for secretary of state, in which he garnered 4.3 million votes — less than Padilla’s current 3.2 million Senate votes.

“There is a lot of blame that can go around. At the same time, there is a lot of opportunity here in California,” he said. “If the donors ever want to take California back, they just missed an opportunity.”

A lot of blame belongs with the national and state Republican Party, which has virtually no presence in the state and donates no money, DeMaio said.

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“While this is exciting, it could have been so much better,” DeMaio said. “Our California party is a dumpster fire of dysfunction. Imagine what we could do here if we actually had party infrastructure.”

California expanded its election system during the pandemic to require all registered voters to receive ballots. All ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 8 will count. A record 82% of eligible voters signed up this election, but that number has not been borne out in the returns. The results of all elections could take weeks, Bloomberg is reporting.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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