California House races hang in balance as state slowly counts votes

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher speaks with fellow attendees before President Donald Trump's remarks at a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher speaks with fellow attendees before President Donald Trump’s remarks at a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

November 8, 2018

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California’s pro-Russia congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, is one of four Republican incumbents whose seats are in danger of falling to Democratic opponents in the U.S. House of Representatives as America’s most populous state slowly counts its votes.

The outcome of those races – and how much they add to the Democrats’ 28-seat majority in the House – may be uncertain for weeks to come because of mail-in and provisional balloting systems California introduced in recent years to boost voter participation.

California election results tallied as of Wednesday do not account for millions of outstanding ballots still to be processed statewide. Many were mailed by voters to local registrar offices by Tuesday’s deadline but have yet to be delivered.

In Orange County alone, well over 400,0000 votes were still left to be counted, more than half of them mail-in ballots, according to data provided by the county registrar’s office on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of provisional ballots for voters who waited until election day to register also are outstanding.

State returns on Wednesday showed Rohrabacher, a 13-term coastal Orange County congressman, trailing his Democratic challenger, Harley Rouda, a real estate entrepreneur and former Republican, by fewer than 3,000 votes – or 49.3 percent to 50.7 percent.

The Rohrabacher-Rouda race has stood out nationally in part because of the incumbent’s reputation for unabashedly pro-Russian views, widely seen as once putting him on a short-list for consideration as U.S. President Donald Trump’s secretary of state.

Rohrabacher’s seat is one of several held by a Republican in a California district that supported Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 presidential election or was otherwise seen as vulnerable to flipping Democrat.

That race and three others in the state where Democrats were seeking to pick up a Republican seat were either still in play or leaning so heavily toward Democrats that they had claimed victory.

However, Republican incumbents appeared to have garnered comfortable leads in at least three other Southern California races that Democrats had viewed as up for grabs.

Among them was Representative Duncan Hunter, who has pleaded not guilty to felony corruption charges but still managed to defeat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former Obama administration aid of Mexican and Palestinian heritage.

But no races will be certified for at least a month, the time election officials are given to complete their “official canvass” of all votes. They have until Dec. 7 to report final results to the California secretary of state, who has another week to officially declare winners.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; editing by Bill Tarrant and Rosalba O’Brien)

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