Friday, June 19, 2020




          Getting rid of San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi has been a Republican pipe dream for most of the last decade, and just after California’s March 3 primary election, the GOP chortled loudly over what it saw as a real chance to do that.

          For if Democrats lose many of the seven California seats they took away from Republicans in 2018, chances are they also lose their majority in the House of Representatives, Pelosi gets tossed out of the speaker’s office by Bakersfield’s Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy and most likely doesn’t even remain the House Democratic leader.

          But after the long process of counting millions of California’s late-arriving primary election mail ballots ended, that chance seemed more and more remote and the GOP’s salivating began to look premature.

          Republicans based most of their early enthusiasm on preliminary vote counts reported via the California secretary of state’s website, which reflected about 2 million mail ballots sent in days or weeks before Primary Day.

          Those showed Republican totals topping Democrats in all but one of the districts that ousted GOP congress members two years ago. Inexplicably, the same totals remained on the state election-results website days after the last vote was cast, even though they represented less than one-fourth of all the ballots cast.

          The scene became reminiscent of 2018, when Republicans in several of the most contested districts led through several weeks of vote-counting, but saw their margins dwindle with each update.

          The GOP’s highest hopes now reside in the 25th Congressional District, spanning varied communities from Simi Valley to Lancaster. In a May special election, Republican Mike Garcia won the seat briefly held by Democrat Katie Hill before she resigned in a sexting scandal.

Garcia, a former military pilot, won the May vote by a 55-45 percent margin over Democrat Christy Smith, but turnout was 30,000 votes, or 15 percent, less than in 2018. It was a classic example of the GOP winning a lightly-attended special election, but not necessarily predictive of the November rematch because the presidential election figures to draw even heavier voting than 2018’s.

          Republicans also liked the early returns showing Democrat Josh Harder with a very slim lead in the Modesto-centered 10th District, where Harder won narrowly last time after taking the lead only in the final days of vote-counting.

          It’s much the same in the districts won in 2018 by Democrats Gil Cisneros, Harley Rouda and Katie Porter in Orange County, where local Republicans bragged they would soon “roll back the blue wave.”

          About the only district Democrats wrested from the GOP last time where early returns looked good for them was Mike Levin’s 49th, in northern San Diego County and southwest Orange County. He now seems almost a lock for reelection.

          But the red wave Republicans expect in other districts may not happen, even though it’s highly possible Democrats won’t retain all their gains of two years ago.

There’s a reason why early returns in March looked so good for the GOP congressional candidates and not as good later on when vote counts were complete: Republicans essentially had no presidential primary here, with President Trump dominating their party. Meanwhile Democrats saw a hot contest whose field shifted dramatically as Primary Day approached.

          This led many Republicans to cast their ballots early, while Democrats held theirs to see what might develop before making their marks. As a result, the bulk of mail ballots reaching vote-counters during the three days after the election were cast by Democrats. None of those ballots were included in the early counts that so heartened Republicans. Final results showed Democratic and Republican votes running about even in all but one of the seven swing districts.

          All of which means the fall runoffs for the seven hotly-contested seats, and several in the state Legislature, figure to be about as close as they were last time, with several outcomes uncertain until the end of November and little being determined on the actual Nov. 3 Election Night.

          In the end, the early Republican optimism may pan out. But probably not as sweepingly as the GOP wishes, as California gradually becomes ever more Democratic-dominated.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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