Trying to explain what happened in the mid-term elections is premature, since much may not be known for another month. What did not happen is a bit clearer, and what did not happen was a “red wave.”
Importantly, Republicans almost certainly will gain control of the House of Representatives, and Democrats carried Nevada, so Republicans are no longer in the running to control the Senate (as of November 12). But the number of seats gained in the House will be far fewer than anticipated. The opposition party almost always gains seats in mid-term elections. In the first mid-term elections during the administrations of presidents Clinton and Obama, the Republicans gained over 50 seats. Something similar was expected this time.
This was the Biden administration’s first mid-term election. The president’s polls are languishing in the low 40s and inflation is staring everyone in the face each time they pass a gas station. As well, there was some serious gerrymandering that took place following the last census which, on balance, favored the Republicans. A possible Republican gain of more than 60 seats was not out of the question. That did not happen. It will be some time before we know the actual figure, but something in the range of 20 seats seems more likely.
There are several factors that contributed to the absence of the wave. The Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade was certainly an important factor. Second, Republicans, encouraged by Donald Trump (and some strategic and cynical center-left money sources), selected some weak candidates, including many election-deniers. The shadow of Trump, and having these election-deniers on the ticket was a motivating factor in the Democratic vote. Biden is unpopular with Republicans, but Trump and his supporters scare Democrats. These factors contributed to a high turnout for a mid-term much like 2018. Together these factors countered historic patterns.
Locally, it may not be a “red wave,” but the Republican party is not dead in Orange County. While almost all the statewide contests were won by Democrats by 14-16% margins, in Orange County in those same contests, Republicans led by 6-10% margins. For instance, Governor Newsom received 58% of the vote statewide, but only 47% in Orange County. And it was the same down the line.
Also of interest, Republicans turned out to vote in person while Democrats mailed it in (or dropped it off). As an example, in Orange County, Sharon Quirk-Silva (AD 67) lost at the ballot box by a two-to-one margin (about 15,000 votes were cast). Currently (November 11), she is winning in OC with about 51% of the vote (64,000 ballots counted so far). Her margin is wider when Los Angeles County votes are added in, and currently is increasing daily.
Since in-person ballots are counted early in the process, the increasing tendency for Republicans to vote in person will only add to the tendency for early vote counts to be misleading. For some years now the vote margin has moved in a direction favorable to Democrats (even in “non-partisan” races) as the post-election count proceeds. Some years ago, Jan Flory, in a city-wide race for City Council was down by 300 votes on election night yet won by 29 votes. That trend appears to be alive and well in this election.
Fullerton elections are now mostly all by district, Including the traditional state and federal districts. Due to the recent redistricting, Fullerton is now in 6 legislative districts: Congressional districts (45/46), State Senate districts (34/37), and Assembly districts (59/67). But there are now also multiple education board districts (college, high school and elementary school), a county supervisor’s district and five City Councils seats. Many were redistricted this year and not all districts have elections every cycle. It is not easy to find out which districts you live in. Fortunately, the Registrar of Voters does that for you.
Current results for these races are elsewhere in this paper (I hope); and you can check the latest counts at OCVotes.gov.
Some races are still too close to call, including AD67 mentioned above, and the two City Council races (District #3 and #5). In District #5 incumbent Ahmad Zahra is currently ahead of newcomer Oscar Valadez by about 200 votes (of about 3700 counted so far). The daily count is trending in his favor. Zahra was the target of an intense negative campaign and has been marginalized on the Council by the current majority (which will not change in this election), but he is a strong campaigner.
As a result of redistricting, Jesus Silva was excluded from running for the Council this time (unless he had found a new residence), and a new District #3 was created east of State College Boulevard. Currently CSUF professor Shana Charles is leading in that district over John Ybarra by 439 votes (again, about 3,700 have been counted). Ybarra ran in the 5th district 4 years ago. The daily count is also moving in her direction, if only by double digits. Only 35 votes separate Ybarra from third place candidate Arnel Dino. It could be a long month for those candidates.
Other local races are not so close: Ruthi Hanchett and Lauren Klatzker (school boards), Jeffry Brown (Community College), Doug Chaffee (Supervisor), Lou Correa (CD46), Michelle Steel (CD 45) and Tom Umberg (SD 34). All have leads that will be difficult to overcome.