The GOP may have maintained its stronghold on the House of Representatives nationwide, but House races were a bloody battle in the West. Many victors emerged by the skin of their teeth. Some races haven’t been called yet; others have hinged on just a handful of votes.
Republican Reps. Brian Bilbray, Dan Lungren, and Mary Bono Mack in California were all fighting for their political lives against strong Democratic challengers. The contests will be decided by a few hundred votes in each instance, and none of the three races was called as of late Wednesday morning.
Democratic Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah and Lois Capps of California both managed to win against tough Republican challengers. Matheson won by fewer than 3,000 votes in a closely watched contest against Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, a rising Republican star with the support of many prominent members of her party. Had she been successful, Love would have been the first African-American Republican woman in Congress. Capps held off Republican Abel Maldonado more handily, securing a victory with a 20,000-plus vote margin.
In a California district newly redrawn to favor her party, Democrat Julia Brownley was leading Republican Tony Strickland, 52 percent to 48 percent, in another race that was still uncalled as of late Wednesday morning.
Democrats weren’t always successful in gaining the ground they sought. Republican Rep. Jeff Denham held onto his seat in California’s 10th District in the face of a fierce challenge by Democrat Jose Hernandez. And tea party favorite Rep. Mike Coffman prevailed in Colorado, 49 percent to 45 percent, despite a tough bid from Democratic state Rep. Joe Miklosi. The Cook Political Report had referred to the latter race as “Democrats’ best opportunity to pick up a seat in the entire Mountain West.”
Where Democrats did make advances may reflect the West’s growing Latino population. Nationally, the share of the country’s vote cast by Latinos edged up 1 percentage point this election to 10 percent, according to ABC News, compared with 9 percent in 2008, and Latinos support for President Obama received is already being partially credited with his victory on Tuesday.
The close match-up between Republican Bono Mack, a moderate member of the GOP who has held the post since 1998, and Democratic challenger Raul Ruiz, an emergency-room physician who was raised by farmworkers and attended Harvard Medical School, is thought to reflect the district’s growing Latino population. And although Republican Denham won California’s 10th District, the area’s growing Latino population is thought to be responsible for at least part of the narrower-than-expected contest. He got 54 percent of the vote to Democrat Hernandez’s 46 percent.
A number of hard-fought wins will emerge as the results of the close Western races come in today. It’s been an expensive fight; House races in Claifornia drew more than $38 million in outside spending, The New York Times reported last month, easily outpacing second-place Illinois, where $29 million was spent.