Nat’l Dems Get Their Preferred Nominee Against Rohrabacher After Lengthy Count

Harley Rouda campaigns on May 29, 2018 (Cameron Joseph / TPM Media).
June 25, 2018 10:59 a.m.

It took weeks, but national Democrats finally got the candidate they wanted to face Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Democrat Hans Keirstead conceded to opponent Harley Rouda on Sunday night, shortly after the last of the Orange County district’s votes were counted, leaving Rouda with a 126-vote lead.

“After weeks of hard work counting every ballot, I congratulate Harley Rouda on advancing to the general election,” Keirstead, a scientist, said in a Facebook post on Sunday. “I know the Rouda campaign values the importance of science and facts in public policy, and they will give voice to that message. I pledge my support and will work in unison with Harley Rouda to make sure Democrats and science prevail in November.”

Rouda thanked Keirstead with a tweet.

That newfound comity stands in stark contrast to the pair’s close and sometimes nasty primary fight, which Democrats had worried could lead to Republican Scott Baugh beating both of them in the all-party primary to face Rohrabacher in the fall. That nearly happened, but major investments by national Democrats to take down Baugh helped push him into 4th place, just 2,500 votes behind Rouda.

The race was one of a handful where Democrats were worried they might fail to get a candidate through because of California’s unusual top-two primary system. But a concerted effort by national Democrats kept that from happening.

Keirstead got the state Democratic Party’s endorsement early on and was an early candidate touted by national Democrats. But some #metoo accusations led local groups like Indivisible to abandon him in favor of Rouda, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee followed suit.

National Democrats believe Rouda’s nomination gives them a strong chance at beating Rohrabacher in the fall in a traditionally Republican coastal Orange County seat that has trended their way in recent years, especially given Rohrabacher’s baggage as a Russia apologist and other idiosyncratic views.

The lengthy vote count also illustrates a more nausea-inducing fact for many political observers: If the battle for the House is decided by just a handful of seats, California’s snail’s-pace vote counting could leave the fate of the House undecided for weeks after the election. The state has more than a half-dozen competitive races, and as this primary and races from earlier years prove, the closer contests often take weeks to sort through.

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