The remaining two California House races are developing clear and similar trends as more ballots are counted and reported. Both Reps. Dan Lungren (R-CA-7) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA-52) are falling considerably behind their Democratic challengers.
In Lungren’s case, physician Ami Bera has now jumped ahead by 3,284 votes in the last publicly released count with approximately 50,000 ballots left to verify and count. Bera’s lead has grown consistently since Election Day, when he led by less than 1,000 votes. In San Diego, Port Commission chairman Scott Peters has increased his lead to 1,899 votes with about 60,000 remaining to count. This race, too, showed less than a 1,000 vote differential on Election Day. The most recent trend is likely to yield two more Democratic congressional victories. If the challengers do go onto win, the new California delegation split will be 38D-15R, a gain of four Democratic seats.
Five Golden State districts can expect to see major competition in 2014, when the lower mid-term turnout could pose more favorable results for Republicans. Newly elected members in the 7th (Bera) and 52nd (Peters) districts, should they ultimately end in a Democratic victory, can expect strong re-election competition, as will freshman in the marginal 26th District (Rep.-Elect Julia Brownley; Ventura County), and the 36th District where Dr. Raul Ruiz defeated Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R). These seats were designed to be competitive for most of the decade. Republican Gary Miller who won the new 31st District after two Republicans surprisingly qualified for the general election can expect a strong Democratic challenger next time.
The new freshmen are beginning to file into Washington for orientation, and more is being learned about them and the electoral patterns that we all just witnessed. In the House, a minimum of 80 new freshmen will be sworn into office in January, more once the five outstanding races are settled. A dozen new senators will also take their seats as the new year begins.
Unlike the past three election cycles, 2012 proved to be an incumbents’ year. Pres. Barack Obama was, of course, re-elected as were all but one US senator (Scott Brown of Massachusetts) who chose to seek another term. In the House, not counting those members who faced their colleagues in paired incumbent situations, 368 sought re-election and a minimum of 344 were victorious. Therefore, the total congressional incumbent retention factor is right around 94%, proving that the electorate is returning to its pro-incumbent predisposition.
Of the 12 new senators, six are current members of the House of Representatives, three are former statewide officials (two governors and an attorney general), two are from the legal and private sector, and one is a state legislator.
Turning to the 80 known House freshmen, nine are former US House members, 29 are current or former state legislators, 21 from the legal and private sector, 14 currently hold or formerly held local office, three are federal officials, two physicians, and a pair of career military officers.
As you can see, these numbers represent quite a change from the previous House where a full 40 members held no previous political office of any kind.