UC Irvine law school professor and Democrat Katie Porter has overtaken two-term incumbent Representative Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) in the 45th Congressional District race, according to the latest numbers from the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
It’s a razor-thin margin. Porter has 116,732 votes, or 50.1 percent, to Walters’ 116,471 votes (49.9 percent), a gap of only 261 votes.
Still, it’s quite a dramatic turn when you consider Walters won her first race for the office with 65 percent of the vote in 2014, outdistanced her opponent by 17 percentage points in her reelection two years ago and led Porter by 3 percent on the 2018 election night Nov. 6.
However, tens of thousands of early, mail-in and overseas ballots remained to be counted, and with each update from the registrar, Walters’ lead shrunk.
Before the latest count was updated at 5 p.m. today, the Walters’ campaign had sent out fundraising emails accusing Democrats of trying to steal her seat via a recount.
Losing an additional incumbent Republican’s House seat would be another slap in the face for President Donald Trump, with whom Walters had closely aligned herself. It’s doubly stinging when you consider consumer rights advocate Porter is a protege of Trump’s arch foe Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).
Labor, Democratic and progressive forces poured tons of money and resources in the 45th district race because Hillary Clinton got more votes there than Trump did in 2016.
In the only other unsettled Orange County congressional race, in the 39th district, Republican Young Kim’s lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros has shrunk to 711 votes.
Updated counts gave Cisneros a net gain of 1,118 votes in Los Angeles County and 128 votes in Orange County, which follows a recent trend of the Democrat gaining on the GOP candidate since Nov. 6.
“Every time there has been a significant number of ballots counted since Election Day, Gil Cisneros has gained ground, and today’s results from both Los Angeles County and Orange County further demonstrate that fact,” said Nic Jordan, the Democrat’s campaign manager, in a statement.
However, Kim has claimed the Cisneros campaign is tampering with votes, which prompted the LA County registrar to issue this statement: “We have not addressed anything related to ballot tampering or physical tampering with ballots. Our process is transparent and secured. We orient observer to the process and go over the rules for observation. If observers are not following the rules, they are warned and after repeated incidents, asked to leave; which has only happened in a handful (3 or 4) cases without further incidence. We meet with the lead observers and address issues, if any, as they occur… We respect the role of public and political observers in the electoral process. We have a responsibility to conduct the canvass with transparency; absent disruption or political influence. We meet daily with lead observers from the campaigns and address issues, if any, as they arise.”
“All along, the campaign has made it clear that it respects the work and due diligence of the registrars and a fair and open democracy where every voice is heard,” Jordan says. “The claims made by Young Kim mirror rhetoric from President Trump and are divorced from reality, and it’s because she knows that she will continue to lose ground as more ballots are counted. We support the registrars and they should continue to have the opportunity to count every ballot.”
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.