SANTA ANA (CNS) – Democrats widened their slim leads in three Orange County congressional races key races with the latest ballot count Thursday evening.
In one of the most notable of those races, Rep. Katie Porter, D- Irvine, picked up about 1,400 votes, and now has a 2,970-vote lead over Republican Scott Baugh in the 47th Congressional District.
Baugh told City News Service Wednesday that he feels confident the remaining votes to be counted will tilt in his favor.
“If you look at our trajectory, we made up 19,000 votes (Tuesday night), so I feel great. We’re headed in the right direction,” said Baugh, an assemblyman from 1995-2000.
Democrats had surged to early leads based on early voting, but later Tuesday night the day-of-election vote center ballots favored Republicans, Baugh said.
The Baugh-Porter race will be one of several that are critical to whomever holds the gavel as House Speaker next year.
“Who knew it would come down to a race that 10 months ago no one thought could be won by a Republican,” Baugh said. “She (Porter) spent $26 million this cycle and a lot of people were afraid of that money, but I always thought she wasn’t the right fit for this district so I was not afraid to run against her.”
In another closely watched race, Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, has a 51.1%-48.1% lead over Republican challenger Brian Maryott in the 49th Congressional District. Levin leads the former San Juan Capistrano mayor by 3,713 votes.
In other races, Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Huntington Beach, appeared to outdistance Democrat Jay Chen in her bid for a second term in the 45th District, leading 54.8%-45.2% and is 13,414 votes ahead. The two were locked in a bitter campaign with both sides accusing each other of racism.
Rep. Young Kim, R-Placentia, defeated Democratic physician Asif Mahmood in her bid for a second term in the 40th District, leading 59%-41%. Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, won a fourth term representing the 46th District, defeating Republican attorney Christopher Gonzales, 58.4%-41.6%.
There are still 356,888 votes left to count by the Orange County Registrar of Voters. That does not include all of the ballots dropped in the mail on Election Day or over the weekend. If ballots are postmarked on Tuesday they have until Friday to arrive in the mail.
The Registrar still has 1,110 vote-by-mail ballots received on or before Election Day to process. There are 93,581 ballots from drop boxes left to process.
The Registrar also has 129,177 vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at vote centers to count.
Democrats have a lead in registered voters in the county with 682,923, compared to 602,172 for Republicans.
Aside from Congress, Orange County voters cast ballots Tuesday for three of the five seats on the officially nonpartisan Board of Supervisors.
Much attention was being focused on the Fifth District race between Democratic incumbent Katrina Foley and Republican state Sen. Patricia Bates, a former supervisor. That race — which was evenly matched and too close to call early Thursday — will decide whether Democrats have a majority on the board.
Foley told City News Service Wednesday she was “cautiously optimistic.”
She said the trend for vote-by-mail and drop boxes “were in my favor, so who knows? We’ll have to wait and see what it is.”
Foley led by 3,054 votes as of Wednesday evening and increased her lead to 3,613 Thursday evening.
Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento held a 48-vote lead over Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen, a fellow Democrat, in the Second District. Nguyen held a 155-vote lead at the conclusion of Wednesday’s counting.
Doug Chaffee, the county board chairman, appeared headed for reelection in the Fourth District with a 56.6%-43.4% lead over Buena Park Mayor Sunny Park, a fellow Democrat.
Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker said the last few election cycles have shown that Republicans have been voting late, either at vote centers or by mail, so he believes the remaining ballots will favor his party.
“We know from the last three cycles that Republicans vote late and intentionally vote late, and we had a big push to get out to the vote to get people to get their ballots in,” Whitaker said. “I’m very confident Scott Baugh wins and Pat Bates wins, and I’m pretty darn confident Brian Maryott wins too… The red wave may not have been very strong nationwide, but I think we’ve performed well here.”
Whitaker said from what he saw at the Registrar of Voters on Wednesday, workers were “mostly opening up bags and sorting envelopes by areas. Then they were looking at signatures.”
That process will take a while so it might not be until Friday to get a handle on the ultimate results, Whitaker said.
Orange County Democratic Party Chair Ada Briceno said she was “very excited about making sure Democrats have the Board of Supervisors” majority.
“But I’ve got to say it’s too early to say this is what happened,” Briceno said Wednesday. “We’ll see some numbers shift a little bit (Wednesday night)… While there’s a lot up in the air I’m feeling optimistic. I’m feeling much better than I did three or four days or even yesterday morning.”