By Sara Hall and Victoria Kertz
In the tightest race on local ballots Tuesday, the 48th Congressional District, the top spot easily went to the longtime incumbent, but the fight for second place is down to a difference of just 73 votes.
While Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher held onto his lead all night long, the gaps between the next three in line, Laguna Beach Democrats Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda, and Huntington Beach Republican Scott Baugh, continued to narrow. The last count reported switched things up, leaving Rouda in the coveted second place position and moving Keirstead, who had held onto the second position all night long, ever so slightly down into third.
In a statement released just after midnight, Rouda thanked his supporters, volunteers and others who helped his campaign.
“We have truly built a movement for change here in the 48th Congressional District and I look forward to defeating Dana Rohrabacher and restoring honesty and integrity to this office,” he wrote.
Rohrabacher also felt victorious, as he led a cheerful group of about 100 supporters singing “God Bless America” during an event held at his campaign headquarters in Costa Mesa Tuesday.
“This is not a victory for me, it’s a victory for America,” Rohrabacher said. “Tonight in Orange County we are taking back America.”
In his speech, Rohrabacher mentioned beating out the “left-wing fanatics” in the “jungle primary.”
“The fake news was wrong,” Rohrabacher proclaimed, eliciting loud cheers.
“How many times did we have to hear, ‘Oh, there’s a ‘Blue Wave’’?” he asked the riled up crowd. “The tide has turned, America is winning.”
Although the 30-year GOP incumbent still took the top spot with a hefty lead, the night was a tense battle for the runner-up spot.
As the count kicked off at 8 p.m., Keirstead started in second place with 18.7 percent, just over Rouda’s 14 percent. In between the two was Baugh with 18 percent.
As of 11 p.m. on Tuesday night and 203 of 415 precincts reporting, Rohrabacher lead the race for the congressional seat with 30.1 percent of the vote. Keirstead was still in second place with 17.8 percent, followed by Baugh at 17 percent. Rouda is in fourth place with 15.7 percent.
After the third set of votes were counted, Keirstead said he was cautiously optimistic. But he noted how close the numbers were between him, Rouda, and Baugh.
“It’s tight,” he said around 11 p.m.. “Hopefully we’ll stay above everybody.”
He held onto the second place position for most of the night.
“I would love to be contrasted with Dana Rohrabacher in the general election,” Keirstead said.
He held an event Tuesday night as well, like many candidates in the primary election. Supporters of Keirstead packed into Muldoon’s Irish Pub in Newport Center to watch the news unfold.
“I’m pleased that the constituents of the 48th responded so well to the facts and science,” Keirstead said. “Progress over politics. I’m honored by that, whatever way this falls.”
About 300 people attended an event for Rouda at the Ranch in Laguna Beach.
“It’s going to be a long night,” Rouda said.
As of midnight, with 415 of 415 completed precincts, Rouda got bumped up from fourth and barely crept into second place with 17.3 percent (18,182 votes) and Keirstead very closely behind with 17.2 percent (18,109 votes). Baugh had fallen to the fourth spot on the list with 16.1 percent (16,963 votes). Rohrabacher held his lead with 30.3 percent (31,886 votes).
Rouda pointed out that with Rohrabacher grabbing about 30 percent of the votes that means 70 percent of voters rejected the long-time incumbent.
“They sent a truly resounding statement that they’re ready to say goodbye to the divisive and hateful politics of our failed incumbent Congressman and Donald Trump,” Rouda wrote in the statement.
Voters also considered candidates for the 74th Assembly District race.
With all 280 precincts reporting, Huntington Beach Republican Incumbent Matthew Harper has a significant lead with 41.4 percent. Democrat Cottie Petrie-Norris follows with 28.1 percent.
Unofficial final results, with additional vote-by-mail ballots, will be posted on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Updates are available at ocvote.com.