The Democratic Party spent the past two years hoping to flip California’s 49th Congressional District, and on Tuesday night, they succeeded.
Democrat Mike Levin, an environmental attorney, beat Republican Diane Harkey, a member of the state Board of Equalization, 54 percent to 46 percent.
In January, eight-term Republican Congressman Darrell Issa decided not to seek re-election in the district straddling Orange and San Diego counties. Issa narrowly defeated his Democratic opponent Doug Applegate in 2016.
Sixteen candidates competed in the June primary, which attracted national attention and millions of dollars in donations and independent expenditures. The candidates included Applegate, Sara Jacobs — granddaughter of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs — and Kristin Gaspar, a member of the county Board of Supervisors.
In the month after making it through the primary, Levin received $5,000 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official political committee of House Democrats. Harkey received $5,000 from the National Republican Congressional Committee, the committee for House Republicans.
But over time, Levin was able to outraise Harkey, even while refusing to accept donations from corporate political committees. Levin’s campaign raised more than $4.3 million, and Harkey raised $1.2 million. Independent groups spent more than $500,000 on commercials, fliers and other advertising supporting Levin.
inewsource’s precinct-level maps of election results show a geographic divide among voters. Levin dominated the San Diego County portion of the district, including in Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside. Harkey captured most of the Orange County region, including San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point. And though Harkey had support in Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch in San Diego County, she was unable to overcome support for Levin in the southern stretch of the district.
In the neighboring 50th Congressional District, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter beat Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar. Hunter is facing federal charges for misusing $250,000 of campaign money from previous elections, but he still captured 54 percent of the vote to Campa-Najjar’s 46 percent.
Like Levin, Campa-Najjar refused donations from corporate political committees and still outraised Hunter. Campa-Najjar raised more than $2.4 million for his campaign, while Hunter raised $950,000.
The financial advantage wasn’t enough to put Campa-Najjar over the edge in a district that Donald Trump won with 15 points over Hillary Clinton. It includes large unincorporated areas of eastern San Diego County and Temecula. Campa-Najjar won precincts in San Marcos and Escondido, but Hunter dominated in Jamul, Lakeside, Ramona and Valley Center.
The registrar’s office is continuing to count 490,000 mail-in and provisional ballots. The office has 30 days from the election to certify the official results.
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