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The 2022 Midterm Election in California: Decided Races and Races in Progress

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The midterm elections, which included several key races statewide, took place on Nov. 8. Among those elections were seats with strong legislative power including the Senate, House of Representatives and Governor. The elections for local positions included Irvine Mayor and Irvine City Council. Although several races are yet to be called due to a high volume of absentee ballots, there are a few that have been decided. 

Senate:

Only one of California’s senate seats was up for election this time around, the other being occupied by Democrat Dianne Feinstein. The race was between Alex Padilla and Mark Meusser. 

Democratic candidate Padilla won the election with 59.1% of the vote. Padilla was the incumbent candidate, taking Kamala Harris’ seat when she was elected as Vice President in 2020. Padilla’s victory can be partially attributed to the 1.5 million votes he received from  Los Angeles county. 

Republican candidate Meusser received about 40.1% of the vote, mostly gaining victories in smaller counties. Orange County was an exception, being the largest country population-wise to vote for Meusser.  

Padilla’s election made him the first Latino elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of California, marking a notable shift in representation within high government positions. 

“People look at someone like Alex and think, ‘OK, we have a voice. Someone there that is gonna listen to our issues and really cares about what is important to us,’” Fabian Núñez, former Speaker of the Assembly, said to the LA Times. “And already he’s spoken up on immigration reform, more than I think we’ve seen in the U.S. Senate in a very long time.”

Padilla also won the election to remain in his seat as a California senator until the new term begins on Jan. 3. He will serve on the senate until he faces reelection in 2028. 

Governor:

Democrat incumbent candidate Gavin Newsom secured a second term as California’s governor over Republican candidate Brian Dahle with 57.8% of votes. The race was called within minutes after the polls closed on Tuesday, as Newsom won LA county and most of California’s larger counties. 

Dahle earned the other 42.2% of votes, being most popular in Northern California. Once again, OC swung Republican, accounting for roughly 23% of Dahle’s total votes. 

Newsom celebrated his victory by contrasting his values with those of governors in conservative states. 

“We have governors that won their re-election tonight in other states tonight that are banning books, that are banning speech, that are banning abortion, and here we are in California moving in a completely different direction. That’s a deep point of pride,” Newsom said in a speech on Nov. 8, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. “I bring to this second term a resolve to do more to advance that cause of freedom.” 

Newsom will be ineligible to run for governor after his upcoming four-year term.  

House of Representatives:

Irvine is part of California’s 47th congressional district  — a change that occurred after the 2020 census — where the race for a House seat is between incumbent Katie Porter and Scott Baugh. The race has not yet been called as not all votes have been counted. 

Katie Porter became the first Democrat to be elected to the House from what used to be the 45th district. After her first victory, Porter and other Democrats held power in the former 45th district, but redistricting in 2020 had the potential to disrupt the balance of power. Redistricting as a result of the 2020 census means that the congressional district lines include different cities, including much of western OC. 

Throughout the midterm election, OC has trended Republican. The race for the 47th congressional district was one of the most competitive races in the country, but Porter was officially declared the winner on Nov. 17. 

Despite the Republican-leaning nature of the district, Porter maintained a small lead throughout the race. Once all the absentee ballots were tallied, Porter won by a slim margin of 51.6% while Baugh trailed closely with 48.4%. 

“There are plenty of Orange County voters who don’t like Donald Trump but would support — and do support — a more conventional Republican,” David Wasserman, a House campaign analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said to the LA Times. 

Wasserman also believes that Porter faced a “genuine risk” when it comes to her seat in Congress, especially as Republicans took back the majority control of the House after the midterms. 

Porter will serve as a House member for a two-year term and may be reelected indefinitely upon completion. 

Irvine Mayor:

The Irvine mayoral election is another that has not yet been called, with several nonpartisan candidates vying for the seat. Incumbent mayor Farrah Khan currently holds the lead with 37.7% of votes. Behind Khan is Branda Lin with 27.6% of votes, and in third is candidate Simon Moon, with 19%. Candidates Katherine Daigle and Tom Chomyn are trailing behind the other candidates with 9.2% and 6.6% respectively. 

Official ballot counters are unable to estimate what percentage of the total votes have been counted as they are expecting a large number of absentee votes to arrive towards the end of the deadline. 

The nonpartisan nature of the mayoral election could also contribute to a close race, as the majority of candidates are only running on issue-related platforms. 

However, candidates may receive endorsements from political parties. Khan, for example, has been endorsed by the county Democratic Party, while Moon is endorsed by the California Republican Assembly

As the initial leader of the race, Khan has said that she will not be making any assumptions about her position until the final tallies are in.

 “But looking at numbers now, I think we’re in a good spot,” she told the OC Register.

The winning candidate will serve as mayor for a two-year term. 

Irvine City Council:

There are two open seats on the City Council this year, both of which will serve a four-year term. The race for these seats is ongoing. 

Incumbent Vice Mayor Anthony Kuo is third in the race with 21% of the votes as of Nov. 17. Candidates Larry Agran and Kathleen Treseder currently lead the race, both of whom already serve on the council. Agran holds his lead with 23.9%, Treseder is close behind with 22.5% of the votes. For both Agran and Treseder, this would be their final term on the City Council. Following is Irvine businessman John Park with 19.2% of the votes. 

Agran was pleased with his initial lead in the race, believing his campaign has resonated with voters. 

“Our strategy was to push forward with those issues that are important to our community,” Agran told the OC Register.

Trailing behind the rest of the candidates was Irvine Valley College student Navid Sadigh. Sadigh has officially pulled out of the race after receiving approximately 4,600 votes. 

Across all elections statewide, California’s turnout rate was only 44.4%, a decrease from the 64% for the 2018 midterm elections. California laws allow ballots postmarked by election day to arrive up to one week after the polls have closed. This may mean that some elections cannot be called until at least Nov. 16, but possibly later, depending on the volume of absentee votes that have yet to be counted. 

Scarlett Roberts is a City News Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at sorobert@uci.edu