Here’s What the Blue Wave Looked Like in California

Even when they lost, Democrats boosted their performance in tough races.

Charlie Neuman/Zuma

As of last Monday, California Democrats had flipped 3 of the 10 Republican-held congressional seats they’d targeted in this year’s election. After a week of unhurried vote counting, they’ve now flipped six—including every seat in Orange County. And the final(ish) vote counts confirm just how well their candidates did in these historically conservative districts—even when they lost. On average, the Democratic vote share in these districts jumped from 42 percent in 2016 to 50 percent in 2018.

Democrats increased their vote share in all 10 of California’s hottest races

In districts where Democrats won, their average share of the vote jumped 7.5 percent, to 52.6 percent. In the districts where Republicans held their seats, Democrats boosted their average vote share to 47 percent—a 9.7-point increase since 2016. Some of the biggest increases were in these losing districts: Ammar Campa-Najjar did 11 points better than the last Democrat to challenge Rep. Duncan Hunter. And Andrew Janz increased the Democratic vote share in Rep. Devin Nunes’ Central Valley district by in 15 points.

While these numbers seem to validate the Democratic Party’s decision to focus on flipping these California seats, they also raise some questions as it prepares for 2020: Can it get over 50 percent in the districts where it lost? And can it hold on to the often-narrow wins in the districts it just turned blue? 

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