I’m as surprised as you are.
Even more surprising: The two most interesting races anywhere in the country this evening are local ones, not federal or state elections.
And there’s a third surprise. As grim as the midterm environment is for Democrats this fall, and it’s really grim, if things go their way tonight they’ll be in position to flip a couple of red House seats to blue this November.
Ed previewed the big California races this morning. The most-watched one is the San Fran district attorney recall, in which we’ll finally settle the question of whether it’s possible for an elected official to be too far left for San Francisco. All signs point to yes: One recent poll found D.A. Chesa Boudin saddled with a 62 percent disapproval rating and a 56 percent majority in favor of recall. California elections are frustrating since the polls close at such a late hour and mail ballots continue to trickle in for days but Boudin may be in a deep enough hole that we’ll get a call tonight. Which means crime will rocket to the top of the national agenda for Democrats tomorrow, just below inflation.
The other marquee race is the Los Angeles mayoral primary, where left-wing Karen Bass is facing a surprisingly strong challenge from ex-Republican Rick Caruso. Caruso is a billionaire developer who’s spent a boatload of money on the race to raise his profile. He’s also locked down many celebrity endorsements towards the same end — Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg, even Elon Musk. Caruso is running on getting tough on crime and reducing L.A.’s homeless encampments. If he upsets Bass and Boudin goes down in San Francisco, the narrative of liberal voters in open revolt against rampant lawlessness will be set.
Two more to watch are California House races where Republicans are favored but have been placed in jeopardy by redistricting, insufficient loyalty to Trump, or both. One is CA-22, where David Valadao is facing a challenge on the left *and* the right. That’s because California doesn’t follow traditional primary systems: It uses a “jungle primary” in which candidates from both parties appear on the same ballot and the top two advance to the general election in November. (A candidate wins outright if he or she tops 50 percent.) If Valadao’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year. Businessman Chris Mathys, a “steadfast supporter” of Trump’s, jumped into the race hoping to capitalize on MAGA anger over that vote. Democrat Rudy Salas is also running and hoping to benefit from the fact that the new CA-22 broke for Joe Biden by 13 points in the 2020 election.
Salas is highly likely to advance to the general election by consolidating Democratic voters tonight, which should land him in the top two. What Dems want is to see Mathys finish ahead of Valadao for the other spot in the top two since it’ll be easier in California to defeat a no-name MAGA fanatic than an anti-Trump incumbent. To that end, the main House Democratic Super PAC has been trying to boost Mathys on television. If Valadao finishes third, ending his political career, Democrats stand a great chance of flipping this seat in the fall.
The last race of interest is CA-40, where Republican Rep. Young Kim is battling to fend off a conservative challenger named Greg Raths. The fact that national Republican Super PACs are spending big money on her suggests she’s in danger of finishing behind both Raths and the Democratic candidate in the district, Asif Mahmood. That would be a double whammy for Republicans, not only costing them another incumbent and endangering the seat in the general election but saddling them with a figure in Raths who’s prone to saying stuff like, “The Jewish community is very well organized in the United States and they control a lot of politicians. That’s why the foreign aid is so large going to Israel.”
If Valadao and Kim finish in the top two this evening, odds are decent that Republicans will hold both seats. If either loses, the odds of that seat turning blue go way up.
Polls close at 11 p.m. ET, unfortunately, and mail ballots will ensure that close races aren’t decided for several days. Here’s the widget for the two House races; simply use the dropdown menu on the upper right to select CA-22 or CA-40. To follow the results in the Boudin recall, click here. And to follow the results in the L.A. mayoral primary, click here.