Politics

A few races might not even be that close, but there are too many uncounted ballots to know yet.

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, Nov. 13, 2022. Kenny Holston / The New York Times

By Maggie Astor and Trip Gabriel, New York Times Service

Control of the House of Representatives will be decided in the coming days or maybe weeks — sorry — by the outcomes of around a dozen races.

These contests have little in common, other than the fact that they are either very close or in districts that have been slow to count ballots. Some, like California’s 22nd Congressional District, were always expected to go down to the wire; in others, like Colorado’s 3rd District, a Republican incumbent who was widely believed to be safe has run into unexpectedly fierce competition. A few races might not even be that close, but there are too many uncounted ballots to know yet.

Based on what has been counted so far, where the remaining ballots come from and how they were cast — by mail or in person, for instance —  Republicans have a wider path to a majority, with more room for error, than Democrats do. But a path for Democrats does still exist.

Here is a look at what remains on the board. These are not all of the races in which The Associated Press has yet to determine a winner, but they are the ones where the outcome is least certain and where a House majority is most likely to be won or lost.

Races that were always going to be close

Incumbents in trouble

— Rep. David Valadao is no stranger to close elections: He lost his seat in 2018 and regained it in 2020, by less than a percentage point each time. Now the race, in  California’s 22nd District, is a cliffhanger for the third cycle in a row. Valadao is ahead of state Assemblyman Rudy Salas, a Democrat, by 5 percentage points, but only about half the votes are counted, and there is a lot of Democratic territory left to report.

Valadao, one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump and one of only two to survive his primary, is the son of a farmer; Salas is the son of a farmworker. Economic issues, especially related to farming, dominated the campaign in this Central Valley district that relies on agriculture, but abortion was also an issue: Valadao is a co-sponsor of a bill that would define life as beginning at fertilization, and Salas sought to use that against him.

California’s 27th District is home to the third race between Rep. Mike Garcia, a Republican, and Christy Smith, a Democrat. Garcia won the first two — a special election and general election in 2020 — and he has a good chance of doing so again, with only two-thirds of ballots counted but a lead of nearly 15,000 votes. But because of the number of outstanding ballots, The Associated Press has not called the race, and it is still mathematically possible for Smith to catch up.

The district, in Los Angeles County, elected a Democrat in 2018 — Katie Hill, who resigned after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a staff member — and President Joe Biden won it handily. But Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot, has proved a strong candidate against Smith, a former Education Department policy analyst and former state assemblywoman. National Democrats pulled back from the race in October, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House Majority PAC canceling more than $2 million in ad reservations there.

— Rep. Michelle Steel, who was part of a wave of Republican women elected to the House in 2020, had a roughly 12,000-vote lead over her Democratic opponent, Jay Chen, in California’s 45th District as of Monday afternoon. But about 30 percent of the vote was still outstanding, and that portion is likely to narrow the margin significantly.

Steel, a former county supervisor who is Korean America, and Chen, a local businessman who is Taiwanese America, both worked to court Asian American voters in a district where they are influential.Inflation and crime were focal points, particularly given the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans. And in Orange County, which used to be a Republican stronghold but has been divided in recent election cycles, it is no surprise to see a tight race.

Open seats

California’s 13th District, a newly drawn area in the Central Valley, leans Democratic on paper: Biden would have carried it by 11 points in 2020. At the same time, though, it would have voted last year to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, who easily fended off the challenge statewide.

In the House race, a Republican farmer, John Duarte, faced a Democratic member of the state Assembly, Adam Gray, who has called himself a “radical centrist.” Both championed water rights for farmers. A majority of adults in the district are Hispanic, a group that has traditionally supported Democrats. Fewer than 100 votes separate the two.

New York’s 22nd District, based around Syracuse, became one of the most competitive in the state after redistricting and the retirement of Rep. John Katko, a Republican, who represented much of the district in its earlier incarnation. The seat is in an upstate region that Democratic presidential candidates have carried, and it was long a target of Democrats. Katko’s retirement seemed to be the opening they had waited for.

The race matched Brandon Williams, a Trump-aligned Republican business owner, against Francis Conole, a moderate Democrat who is a Naval Academy graduate and Iraq war veteran. Republicans, who were strong in New York congressional races, flipping four Democratic seats, are eyeing Williams’s narrow lead with optimism.

The more surprising battlegrounds

Incumbents in trouble

— No major forecaster predicted that Rep. Lauren Boebert would be vulnerable in Colorado’s 3rd District, but with more than 95% of the estimated vote counted, she is leading her Democratic challenger, Adam Frisch, by only about 1,000 votes. Given how little is left to count, she has a good chance of surviving, but it’s not over yet, and Frisch’s campaign is running an intensive effort to get voters whose ballots were initially rejected for issues like signature mismatches to complete the official curing process to get their ballots counted.

The district is Republican-leaning, even more so after redistricting than it was before, and Frisch, a former member of the Aspen City Council, was not well known before he entered the race. But Boebert is one of the biggest far-right provocateurs in Congress, and in an election in which voters rejected many extreme candidates, that appears to have been a liability.

— Rep. Ken Calvert, in California’s 41st District, is another Republican incumbent who was widely believed to be safe but is now locked in a close race. As of Monday, he had a lead of about 2.6 percentage points over his Democratic opponent, Will Rollins. But only about three-quarters of ballots had been counted, and what remains could be blue enough for Rollins to take the lead.

Calvert has been in Congress for 30 years and is accustomed to winning re-election by double digits. Much of the shift this year is attributable to redistricting; his seat was redrawn to include Palm Springs, which has a large and Democratic-leaning LGBTQ community. Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, is gay, and Calvert has long opposed gay rights legislation, though he voted this year for a bill that would codify federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Open seats

— California’s 450-mile-long inland 3rd District links the Democratic-leaning suburbs of Sacramento to conservative communities east of the Sierra Nevada. It is 80% white, and registered Republicans outnumber Democrats. But with nearly half the votes remaining to be counted, the Republican candidate is leading by 6 percentage points.

Kermit Jones, the Democrat, is a former Navy flight surgeon who campaigned on a federal fire insurance plan in a region that has been devastated by wildfires made worse by climate change. The Trump-endorsed Republican, Kevin Kiley, is a state assembly member who called for a more secure southern border and voted against a ballot measure that easily passed on Election Day to add abortion rights to the state constitution.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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