Gavin Newsom led all other challengers for governor in California's primary on Tuesday, with Republican John Cox acing out Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa to secure the second spot on the November general election ballot.
Cox, a businessman who formerly lived in Illinois, was relatively unknown in the state before President Trump sent out several tweets in support of him in recent weeks, in hopes that the GOP would not get shut out of the gubernatorial contest.
Villaraigosa trailed Cox in early returns, but was banking on making up the vote in Los Angeles County.
The attention of Democrats nationwide wasn't on the governor's race but a slew of House races, as the party's hopes of winning back the majority hinge on flipping Republican seats in the state. The GOP holds seats in seven districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016; Democrats need to win 23 seats nationwide this fall to win the House majority.
California's open primary system threatens to lock Democrats out of some contests in November. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election, regardless of party. Because so many Democrats are vying in each district, they face the possibility of splitting the vote and not making it on the fall ballot.
A key battleground is Orange County, the once hard-right conservative bastion that has been leaning farther to the left in recent cycles. Clinton won the county in 2016.
Two Republicans whose districts included part of the county, Ed Royce and Darrell Issa, announced that they would retire, and another, Dana Rohrabacher, is viewed as vulnerable.
In early returns, Democrats risked being shut out of a race to challenge Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican in the Central Valley, as well as in Rohrabacher's district. There, Democrat Hans Keirstead was battling to secure the second spot against Republican Scott Baugh.
Also complicating the race on Tuesday was a snafu in the voter rolls in Los Angeles County, as more than 118,000 names were mistakenly left off registration lists. Among them: Henry Winkler, the star of "Happy Days," who tweeted that his name was left off.
One entertainment figure, Antonio Sabato Jr., was seeking to get a place on the November ballot to challenge Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) in a Ventura County district.
Sabato highlighted a hardline stance on illegal immigration and his support for President Trump in a district that Clinton won handily in 2016, but he told Variety that an improving economy will change voter sentiment in the general election.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) faced a primary challenge from a fellow Democrat, Kevin de Leon, the former leader of the state Senate. She held a wide lead in the primary, but de Leon was expected to make the No. 2 slot, setting up a generational face off and intra-party battle in the fall.
Trump weighed in not just on the governors race but in congressional contests. He also sent a general tweet in support of all of the GOP candidates for Congress, and specifically named two incumbents: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Seven other states held primaries Tuesday, including Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota.
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