Democratic Rep. Katie Porter was reelected Thursday after a bruising campaign in Southern California, where she spent over $24 million to defend her seat in a closely divided coastal district.
With nearly all the votes counted, Porter defeated Republican Scott Baugh, a former legislator, 51.6% to 48.4%, or a margin of about 8,200 votes.
On Wednesday, Republicans regained control of the House. With Porter's victory, Republicans will hold 218 seats next year, Democrats 212. Counting is not yet finished in a handful of other undecided races.
Porter was running in a substantially redrawn district that included her hometown of Irvine but also included many voters who were unfamiliar with her. The campaign presented a stark choice.
Porter, a star of the party's progressive wing known for grilling CEOs during Capitol Hill hearings, anchored her campaign on protecting abortion rights and expanding health care access while spotlighting her work as a consumer advocate, including fighting high credit card fees. She argued that oil companies were keeping supply low to earn record profits.
The conservative Baugh, a former head of the county GOP, blamed congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden for inflation, soaring gas prices and hefty taxes that cut into household budgets.
Both candidates depicted each other as extremists.
Porter's win was another sign of the changing political complexion of Orange County, a place once known as “Reagan country” for its ties to former Republican President Ronald Reagan and conservative politics.
Once largely white and Republican, the county of more than 3 million has grown demographically diverse and increasingly Democratic. Biden carried Porter's district by double digits in the 2020 presidential election.
The victory, although narrow, is unlikely to discourage talk about Porter's political future — she’s often mentioned as a potential U.S. Senate candidate.
The tightest remaining contest in the state is playing out in the Central Valley, where Republican John Duarte seized a thin lead over Democrat Adam Gray in District 13, an open seat. The latest returns showed Duarte leading by just under 1,000 votes, with about 90% of the ballots tabulated.
Another undecided contest was in the state's sprawling 3rd Congressional District, which runs from the Sacramento suburbs down the interior spine of the state. Republican Kevin Kiley, a state assemblyman, was leading Democrat Kermit Jones, a physician and Navy veteran.
In the Central Valley’s 22nd District, where about two-thirds of the votes have been counted, Republican Rep. David Valadao, who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump, had a 5.6-point margin over Democrat Rudy Salas, or about 4,000 votes.