Harley Rouda Takes Slim Lead in Race to Challenge Rohrabacher

Battle between two Democrats to take on vulnerable Republican within 40 votes

The race to challenge Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., is coming down to the wire as final votes are counted from the June 5 primary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the final votes are counted in the primary race to challenge California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in November, 40 votes separate two Democratic candidates.

Harley Rouda, a real estate developer, has taken a razor-thin lead over Hans Keirstead in the narrow fight for second place in the 48th Congressional District, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Keirstead previously had held the lead as ballots were counted in the two weeks since the June 5 primary. Election officials estimate there are fewer than a thousands provisional and late-arriving mail ballots left to count in the district. 

Democrats are energized to take the seat from Rohrbacher, who is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in Congress. The race for the seat is rated Tilt Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzalez.

Rohrabacher leads the 16-candidate pack with about 30 percent of the vote. The candidate with the second-highest vote total in the primary will run against Rohrabacher in November.

In California, all primary candidates run in a single race regardless of party. The top two vote recipients in the blanket primary face each other in the general election in November.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertisements supporting Rouda in the end stages of the campaign.

The campaigns have been mostly quiet since Election Day as votes are counted, though Rouda’s camp has sent out fundraising emails for a “recount fund” over the past two weeks. More recently, they have opted for the term “election protection fund.”

“We look forward to seeing the final result so that we can begin focusing like a laser on stopping the Trump-Rohrabacher agenda in Washington,” Rouda campaign consultant Dave Jacobson told the Times.

California state law does not require an automatic recount in congressional races regardless of vote margin. Any losing campaign that calls for a recount must have enough campaign cash on hand to pay state ballot officials’ work hours.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.