Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar has won an open congressional seat in Southern California, giving Democrats a measure of good news to counter the GOP's rout nationally.
After an updated vote tally Friday, Aguilar beat Republican Paul Chabot 51 percent to 49 percent in the race to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Gary Miller.
The district in the Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles trended strongly Democratic after redistricting. Still, Aguilar had trouble putting away Chabot, even though he received strong financial backing from Democratic groups nationally while Chabot was left to campaign on his own.
“As a team, we almost showed the world that you can win a race with little money but lots of heart,” Chabot told supporters.
Six other congressional races in California remained too close to call Friday, all of them with Democratic incumbents. One of those is a same-party challenge.
An increasing proportion of California voters cast their ballots absentee, but many of those ballots are actually turned in at polling places on Election Day. County elections officials do not start counting them until the next day, and the process can take days or even weeks.
Republicans nationally have picked up 12 seats so far in the House of Representatives.
In the congressional race that attracted more outside spending than any other in the nation, Republican challenger Doug Ose led Democratic Rep. Ami Bera by about 2 percentage points.
Two other Democratic freshmen, Reps. Julia Brownley in Ventura County and Scott Peters in San Diego, maintained extremely narrow leads Friday. Brownley led Republican Jeff Gorell by about 530 votes. Peters led Republican Carl DeMaio by 861 votes, but many ballots remain to be counted in each race.
In one of the more surprising House races in the country, Republican Johnny Tacherra continued to lead five-term Democratic Rep. Jim Costa by a margin of 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent. Outside groups, including the campaign committees for the two national parties, stayed out of the race because Costa appeared to be in such a strong position.
Another Democrat representing a district that stretches into the Central Valley, Rep. Jerry McNerney, maintained a 3 percentage point lead Friday over Republican Tony Amador, a retired U.S. marshal.
In the state's most competitive same-party race, seven-term Rep. Mike Honda was maintaining a lead of more than 4 percentage points over fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a 38-year-old patent lawyer with strong backing from some big names in Silicon Valley's technology sector. During a Friday news conference, Honda, 73, said his lead was insurmountable and touted his lead despite the high-dollar campaign waged against him.
“The voters of this district value a lifetime of service to the community more than a lifetime of serving oneself,” he said, according to a report by the San Jose Mercury News.
He added that his congressional seat “could not be bought … by millionaires and billionaires.”