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California US House races could tip power in Congress

Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel
Chris Carlson/AP
/
AP
Michelle Steel, Republican candidate for California's 48th Congressional District, speaks during the California GOP fall convention in Indian Wells, Calif., Sept. 7, 2019. Due to redistricting, Steel, who who represented the 48th Congressional district, is running for the 45th district seat in the 2022 primary election.

U.S. House battles took shape in heavily Democratic California that could tip the balance of power in Congress, while former Trump administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was in a tight match to claim the Republican nomination for a new House seat in Montana.

In Mississippi, Republican U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo was forced into a runoff after a congressional ethics watchdog raised questions about his campaign spending and he faced his largest-ever field of primary challengers.

Primary elections across seven states Tuesday set up November contests in dozens of races, as Democrats look to protect the party's fragile majority in the House.

In a diverse district anchored in California's Orange County, Republican U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel, a South Korean immigrant, will face Democrat Jay Chen. The district, which includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese American community, is widely considered a toss-up.

In other districts in the nation's most populous state, two Republican House members were trying to surmount challenges tied to former President Donald Trump: One voted to support Trump's impeachment after the U.S. Capitol insurrection, while the other fought against it.

In Iowa, Republican state Sen. Zach Nunn won the GOP spot to take on the state’s lone Democratic House member, Rep. Cindy Axne, in a newly drawn district with a stronger GOP tilt.

A look at results in key U.S. House races Tuesday:

Battleground California: Trump history looms in key districts

In 2020, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Garcia won a narrow victory in a Democratic-leaning district north of Los Angeles. The former Navy fighter pilot was endorsed by Trump that year, then joined House Republicans who rejected electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania and opposed Trump’s impeachment after the Capitol insurrection. That record will be a focus for Democrat Christy Smith, who earned a chance for a rematch with Garcia, after losing two years ago.

In a Democratic-tilting district in the state’s Central Valley farm belt, Republican Rep. David Valadao is highlighting an independent streak while contending with GOP fallout for his vote to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection. Preliminary returns showed him holding an edge over Republican Chris Mathys, who made Valadao’s vote a centerpiece in his campaign to oust him. The winner will face Democrat Rudy Salas, a state legislator.

California uses a top-two election format in which only the two leading vote-getters advance to the November general election, regardless of party.

In the Central Valley, Republican Connie Conway won a special election to complete the term of former Rep. Devin Nunes, who resigned to head Trump’s media company.