Den­ham falls be­hind as vote count­ing con­tin­ues

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Local - BY MAYA SWEEDLER AND MICHAEL FIN­NEGAN San Diego Union-Tri­bune The As­so­ci­ated Press con­tributed to this re­port.

Re­pub­li­can Rep. Jeff Den­ham lost his lead over Demo­crat Josh Harder on Fri­day in one of Cal­i­for­nia’s four un­re­solved con­gres­sional races as up­dated bal­lot counts showed the GOP in grow­ing dan­ger of los­ing as many as six House seats in the state.

GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa fell fur­ther be­hind Demo­crat Har­ley Rouda, who is now more than 7,300 votes ahead of the 15-term con­gress­man.

Rouda de­clared vic­tory over Rohrabacher on Satur­day.

How­ever, votes con­tinue to be counted in Or­ange County, Cal­i­for­nia’s 48th Dis­trict, and The As­so­ci­ated Press has not de­clared a win­ner in the race.

In a state­ment Satur­day, the 56-year-old Rouda said his lead has in­creased over Rohrabacher since the elec­tion and he’s con­fi­dent he de­feated the Re­pub­li­can.

A Rohrabacher spokesman says thou­sands of bal­lots re­main to be counted. The 71-year-old Rohrabacher is seek­ing a 16th term.

An­other Re­pub­li­can Or­ange County in­cum­bent, Rep. Mimi Wal­ters, has seen her elec­tion­night lead of 6,233 votes drop to 2,020 in her race against Demo­crat Katie Porter.

The tab­u­la­tion Fri­day was also alarm­ing for Re­pub­li­can can­di­date Young Kim of Fuller­ton, whose elec­tion-night lead over Demo­crat Gil Cis­neros has shrunk to 2,672 votes.

If his­tor­i­cal vot­ing pat­terns hold, Repub­li­cans will lose all four of those seats. Tens of thou­sands of votes have yet to be counted in each con­test, an­a­lysts in both par­ties es­ti­mate, and the votes tal­lied lat­est in Cal­i­for­nia nearly al­ways skew Demo­cratic. Den­ham fell Fri­day to 3,362 votes be­hind Harder.

Repub­li­cans now hold just 14 of Cal­i­for­nia’s 53 seats in the House. They’ve al­ready lost two of them in a midterm that gave Democrats con­trol of the House as sub­ur­ban vot­ers re­buked Pres­i­dent Trump and his GOP al­lies in Con­gress.

Rep. Steve Knight of Palm­dale was ousted by Demo­crat Katie Hill in the 25th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict on the north­ern out­skirts of Los An­ge­les. In the 49th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict along the coast of south­ern Or­ange and north­ern San Diego coun­ties, Demo­crat Mike Levin, an en­vi­ron­men­tal at­tor­ney, won the seat of re­tir­ing GOP Rep. Dar­rell Issa.

Democrats are op­ti­mistic that the vote count will con­tinue to go their way but cau­tious about declar­ing vic­tory.

“I’m a skep­tic, be­cause I’ve been burned by this many times,” said An­drew Acosta, a Demo­cratic strate­gist in Sacra­mento. “But the trend line doesn’t look good for these Repub­li­cans.”

If Democrats de­feat Rohrabacher, Wal­ters and Kim, it will be the first time since the 1930s that Or­ange County has no Re­pub­li­can in Con­gress.

Re­pub­li­can vot­ers still out­num­ber Democrats in Rohrabacher’s 48th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict along the Or­ange County coast and Wal­ters’ 45th around Irvine and Mis­sion Viejo. But both dis­tricts — like the oth­ers the GOP is strug­gling to hold in Cal­i­for­nia — fa­vored Hil­lary Clin­ton over Trump in 2016.

Democrats also dom­i­nate the 10th Dis­trict in the Modesto area, where Den­ham’s rel­a­tively mod­er­ate pro­file helped him sur­vive pre­vi­ous chal­lenges.

Some Repub­li­cans agreed the trend was wor­ri­some. Mike Madrid, a GOP strate­gist, wrote on Twit­ter: “drip .... drip.... drip .... ”

The tab­u­la­tion could take sev­eral more weeks. In Or­ange County, 365 em­ploy­ees, most of them sea­sonal, are work­ing 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Bal­lots are first fed through ma­chines that slice open the en­velopes and sort them by precinct.

The elec­tion work­ers then gather in clus­ters of four and check bal­lots for mark­ings that might mess up an ac­cu­rate scan.

Those bal­lots are set aside and du­pli­cated by hand. In the end, all the bal­lots are fed into a scan­ner that records the re­sults into a database.

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