Congressional Offices Up for Grabs in Tuesday's Election

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - California Democrats are hoping to make some noise on the Congressional front in Tuesday's election, with a pair of key Southland Republicans retiring and leaving their seats up for grabs, and efforts stepped up to oust others.

One of the most closely watched battles will be in the 39th Congressional District, where 17 candidates are vying to replace retiring Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton. There are seven Republicans on the ballot, led by Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson. Other Republicans looking for the seat are former Assemblywoman Young Kim, who has been endorsed by Royce; former state Sen. Bob Huff; La Mirada Councilman Andrew Sarega; Brea Councilman Steve Vargas; businessman Phil Liberatore; and accountant John Cullum.

A half-dozen Democrats are also on the ballot: health educator and entrepreneur Andy Thorburn; Gil Cisneros, an education advocate who won a record $266 million in the Mega Millions lottery in 2010; Sam Jammal, who worked in the Commerce Department during the Obama administration and was associate manager and regulatory counsel for electric carmaker Tesla in 2017; Harvard-educated pediatrician Mai Khanh Tran; Fullerton physician Herbert Lee; and Garden Grove resident Suzi Park Leggett.

Some Democratic Party officials have expressed concern that the district is among those with too many Democrats filing to run, thus splitting the vote and potentially allowing Republicans to take the top two places and leave the Democrats without a candidate in the November general election.

The top two candidates in all state and federal races will advance to the general election, regardless of party.

The 39th District ballot also includes two candidates without a party preference and two from the American Independent Party.

The district includes portions of eastern Los Angeles County, northern Orange County and Chino Hills and a portion of Chino in southwestern San Bernardino County.

Further south, 16 candidates are vying to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Darrell Issa, R-Vista, in the 49th Congressional District, a seat that straddles Orange and San Diego counties, stretching from Dana Point to La Jolla. Democrats and Republicans have been pouring money in the race, making it one of the most expensive congressional races in the country.

Democrats are likely pinning their hopes on retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, who nearly defeated Issa during the last election cycle. But other Dems battling for the position include San Juan Capistrano environmental lawyer and former Orange County Democratic Party official Mike Levin; Rancho Santa Fe real estate investor Paul Kerr; and education nonprofit CEO Sara Jacobs, granddaughter of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs.

Republicans on the ballot are Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside, along with San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, San Juan Capistrano Councilman Brian Maryott and former Assemblywoman Diane Harkey of Dana Point, who has been endorsed by Issa.

Democrats are also targeting the 48th Congressional District seat of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, who is facing more than a dozen challengers. Businessman Harley Rouda is seen as one of the top Democrats in the race, along with biologist Hans Keirstead, who has been endorsed by the California Democratic Party.

But Rohrabacher, who has faced questions in recent months about his connections with people tied to the Kremlin, is also facing a stiff challenge from within his own party, from former Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh -- presenting the possibility that voters will be choosing between two Republicans in the November general election.

Another closely watched race will be in northern Los Angeles County, where Steve Knight, R-Lancaster, is looking for a third term in the 25th Congressional District, which covers the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys. His biggest challenge is coming from attorney Bryan Caforio, who narrowly lost to Knight in 2016. But there are also three other Democrats fighting for the seat: Katie Hill, the executive director and deputy CEO of the homeless services nonprofit organization PATH; Jess Phoenix, a geologist, and businesswoman Mary Pallant.

Nationwide, Democrats need to flip 23 congressional seats to re-take control of the House. All 53 of California's congressional seats are on Tuesday's ballot.

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