California Primary 2018: Key House Races Could Remain Undecided for Days

Democratic hopes of wresting control of the House of Representatives were hanging in the balance early Wednesday morning, as many votes remained uncounted in California's most competitive congressional races.

It may, in fact, be days, if not more than a week, before all the votes are tallied in three of the mostly closely watched races in the country: California-39, California-48 and California-49. Those districts, which are held by Republicans but were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, are key to Democratic hopes of notching the 23 seats that they need to win back the House.

Because of California's complex "top-two" primary system, where the top two vote getters advance to the November ballot, regardless of party, Democrats feared that the large number of Democratic candidates in those three districts would splinter the vote -- allowing two Republicans to advance.

As of early Wednesday morning, CNN projected that in California's 49th District, where Rep. Darrell Issa is retiring, one Democrat will advance to the general election, avoiding a shutout for the party.

CNN projected that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher will advance to the general election in California's 48th District and former California State Assemblywoman Young Kim will advance in California's 39th District. It's unclear who their challengers will be. There is still a possibility Democrats could be locked out in these districts.

Election officials still must count huge numbers of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. A printing error in Los Angeles County that left 118,000 voters off the roster created further suspense -- particularly in California-39, which is represented by retiring Congressman Ed Royce.

Republicans, however, had a good night in California, because their leading candidate for Governor, John Cox, made it on the November ballot where he will face off against Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who easily finished first.

If they had been shut out of the governor's race in November, Republicans worried that would depress GOP turnout statewide -- making it much easier for Democrats to pick off their most vulnerable incumbents.

The Republican share of the electorate has been shrinking for decades in California, and the GOP does not hold any statewide offices. So until President Donald Trump began tweeting in support of Cox, Republicans had feared that Newsom might end up in the November contest with Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, but the former Los Angeles mayor fell far short and conceded defeat.

In the least surprising result of the night, veteran California Sen. Dianne Feinstein appeared poised for an easy re-election victory. Despite Democrats' enormous registration advantage, it was unclear whether her upstart challenger, state Sen. Kevin de León, would make it to the November ballot to challenge her.

De León has argued that he represents a more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but he has gained little traction in his quest to unseat her -- even though his support from California delegates deprived her of the Democratic Party endorsement earlier this year.

Feinstein remains enormously popular among Democrats, in part because of her untiring battle for additional gun control measures including an assault weapons ban. Because of her dogged leadership on the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees, she has also won the respect of moderates and independents over the years, which has widened her margins of support.

De León is little known beyond his Los Angeles district, and has never run statewide. He struggled to raise money even from allies who had supported him at the Statehouse, in part because of the reverence for Feinstein and because many Democrats did not want to lose her seniority in the Senate.

With an eye toward the November election, Democrats have been closely monitoring 10 House races in California. They had hoped that anger toward Trump -- particularly his assault on California's immigration, oil drilling, and fuel efficiency policies -- would lead to high turnout.

But that does not appear to be the case. Early returns suggested that turnout was much closer to a normal midterm year like 2014, instead of the more favorable scenario Democrats hoped for where turnout was more akin to a presidential year like 2016.

Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota also had primary races Tuesday.

In Montana, State Auditor Matt Rosendale will win the GOP Senate primary, CNN projects, and will face incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester, who is running for a third term in a state Trump won in 2016.

In Alabama, Republican Rep. Martha Roby will face a July runoff to save her seat after failing to top 50% in Tuesday's primary. Roby will face Bobby Bright -- a former Democratic congressman who is now running as a Republican. Roby fell short of 50% in part because she is paying a price in deep-red Alabama for saying in 2016 that she would not vote for Trump.

In South Dakota, Rep. Kristi Noem won the Republican primary for governor against Attorney General Marty Jackley. If Noem wins in November, she'd be the state's first female governor.

In Iowa, Democrat Fred Hubbell won his primary to face Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Two women in Iowa advanced to the general election on Tuesday. In Iowa's 3rd Congressional District, small-business owner Cindy Axne and in Iowa's 1st District, State Representative Abby Finkenauer, won their Democratic primaries to face incumbent Republicans in the fall.