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9 California races that could decide the battle for the House in 2024

Democrats will likely need to win four new seats across the country to take control of the House in the 2024 elections. California offers multiple opportunities.
Representatives David Valadao and Young Kim
Republican Reps. David Valadao and Young Kim are among Democrats' top targets in California.Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — This fall, California is widely expected to deliver its 54 electoral votes to Joe Biden and elect a new Democratic senator. But the state is also hosting a series of hotly contested House races that could tip the battle for the control of the chamber — and make or break the president’s agenda over the next two years.

Five California Republicans represent districts President Joe Biden won in 2020, per calculations from Daily Kos Elections, making them top Democratic targets. Democrats will likely need a net gain of just four seats nationwide to take over the House.

From the northern stretches of the Central Valley to the plush beachside mansions of Orange County, California is home to a swath of competitive districts that are closely divided between the parties and up for grabs. While solidly blue along the population-rich coastline, the vast inland stretches and rural areas toward the Arizona and Nevada borders are more conservative.

“With dysfunctional and out-of-touch Republicans enabling their party’s chaos and extremism in Congress, and a high-turnout election around the corner, the path to 218 will run through California," said Democratic campaign spokesman Dan Gottlieb.

GOP campaign spokesman Ben Petersen said, “California House Republicans fit their districts like a glove, lead on local priorities and run the toughest, smartest campaigns. GOP candidates are full speed ahead in growing the majority."

Under California’s open primary rules on March 5, the top two finishers in each race will advance to the general election contest, regardless of which party they belong to.

CA-13: A narrow Republican win sparks a rematch

Freshman Republican Rep. John Duarte won this San Joaquin Valley district by a mere 564 votes in 2022, making it one of the closest races of the midterm elections. This time, Democratic State Assemblyman Adam Gray is eyeing a rematch and hoping to flip it, with his party seeing it as a prime pickup opportunity.

A GOP strategist said Duarte is still new and has room to grow his profile ahead of his first re-election. If the 2022 margins are any indication, this race will be the tip of the spear in terms of whether Republicans can hold their ground or if Democrats will claw some of it back in a high-turnout presidential election year.

CA-22: Can a Republican who voted to impeach Trump survive?

Rep. David Valadao is one of two House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and is still serving in Congress. Republican Chris Mathys, a former Fresno City Councilman, is again challenging him in the primary after an unsuccessful bid in this Central Valley district in 2022. GOP outside groups, including the Congressional Leadership Fund, have launched ads targeting Mathys and boosting Valadao.

Democratic groups have launched ads backing former Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who lost to Valadao by 3 points in 2022 and is facing competition from Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado.

CA-27: Republican Rep. Garcia goes for a third term

In this district north of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia won by more than 6 percentage points in 2022, besting Democrat Christy Smith. This time, two Democrats — George Whitesides, the former CEO of Virgin Galactic, and Steve Hill, a perennial California congressional candidate — are competing to take on Garcia. Whitesides outraised Garcia in the last quarter of 2022, reporting raising $771,000, compared to Garcia’s $562,000. However, a decent chunk of Whitesides’ haul came from a $260,000 loan from the candidate to his own campaign.

CA-40: A close SoCal seat-to-watch

Biden narrowly carried this Southern California district by 2 points in 2020, but GOP Rep. Young Kim won a second term by 14 points two years later. Kim has kept a low profile on Capitol Hill, voting reliably with GOP leaders while steering clear of messy battles between center-right and far-right Republicans.

On the Democratic side, Tustin Unified School District Board of Education President Allyson Muñiz Damikolas, is competing against former fire captain and union president Joe Kerr to take on Kim, who was first elected in 2020.

CA-41: A likely rematch with Rollins for a GOP-held seat

Republican Rep. Ken Calvert is up for a likely rematch against Democrat Will Rollins, who lost to Calvert by less than five points in 2022. Calvert has served for three decades, but the addition of Palm Springs has made this district a tantalizing prospect for Democrats.

Rollins, an ex-federal prosecutor who worked on counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases, launched his first TV ads of the race last week, alleging that Calvert is “one of the most corrupt members of Congress.” Calvert has fought back, featuring a narrator calling Rollins “the worst kind of prosecutor” in his own TV ads, alleging Rollins released, “violent criminals to commit more crime,” and would bring a “pro-criminal agenda” to Congress.

CA-45: Steel braces for another tough fight

Rep. Michelle Steel, a Republican, is up for re-election in a district Biden would have won by 6 percentage points in 2020, according to a Daily Kos analysis. She’s the lone Republican running in the primary, but she faces four Democrats, including Kim Nguyen-Penaloza, a Garden Grove city council member who is endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, and Derek Tran, a veteran and consumer rights attorney, who has been endorsed by California Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Mark Takano and Judy Chu. The district includes a slice of Orange County and boasts a large Vietnamese population, counting Little Saigon within its borders.

CA-47: Katie Porter’s seat is up for grabs

Spanning from Huntington and Newport beaches to Irvine, this is the only open seat among the most competitive California races. It's being vacated by Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who is running for Senate.

In 2022, Republican Scott Baugh lost to Porter by less than 4 points, or fewer than 10,000 votes, despite being heavily outspent. He’s giving it another go this year, all but locking up the GOP vote.

Meanwhile, Democrats David Min, a state senator, and Joanna Weiss, an attorney and activist, are duking it out for the other spot in the runoff. The Democratic contest has sparked an early intervention from the pro-Israel group AIPAC, which has been spending to try and stop Min. This district has been a bellwether for national trends; if Republicans win it, they could be in a good position to keep the House majority.

CA-49: Coastal competition

Biden carried this district by 11 points in 2020, but Democratic Rep. Mike Levin won a third term in 2022 by just 5 percentage points.

Multiple Republicans are competing to take on Levin in this coastal district north of San Diego, including two candidates who have self-funded their campaigns: media executive Margarita Wilkinson and auto dealership owner Matt Gunderson. Other GOP candidates include Marine veteran Kate Monroe and auto executive Sheryl Adams, who has been endorsed by neighboring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa.

CA-09: A unique GOP candidate

Democratic Rep. Josh Harder was first elected in the 2018 blue wave and most recently won this redrawn district by nearly 10 points in 2022. Now he faces an unusual GOP candidate whom national party operatives are raving about as their potential ticket to flip the district: Kevin Lincoln, the half-Black and half-Mexican mayor of Stockton (population 320,000) who served in the Marine Corps. Lincoln's campaign got off to a rocky start last year when he stumbled on TV over a question about whether he'd have voted for a GOP defense bill with abortion restrictions, pausing mid-sentence without finishing his response. Can this candidate defy gravity against a Democratic incumbent in Biden-friendly territory? Republicans are seeking to draw national attention to the contest.