San Diego

Crowded 49th Congressional Dist. Race Remains Tight

The retirement of long-serving Republican Rep. Darrell Issa brought on a stampede of candidates and the outcome remained clouded Wednesday though it appeared a Republican and Democrat would face off in November.

There were 16 names on the ballot in Issa's 49th District, which includes parts of San Diego and Orange counties.

In the fight for November slots, Republican Diane Harkey landed the top spot, chased by a trio of Democrats, Mike Levin, Sara Jacobs and Doug Applegate. It could take days to sort out.

Democrats nearly seized the seat in 2016, when Issa survived by a mere 1,600 votes.

The coastal district has been growing more diverse and Democratic, although Republicans retain an edge in voter registration. Independents -- who here tend to cast ballots like Democrats -- make up one-quarter of the voters.

Democrats need to gain 23 districts nationally to take the gavel in the House, and a key part of that strategy is expanding their 39-14 advantage in the home state of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. The key battlegrounds are seven districts, mostly in Southern California, where Hillary Clinton defeated then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, making them targets this year.

The uncertainty is heightened by the state's top-two primary system, in which all candidates appear on a single ballot but only the top two vote-getters regardless of party advance to a November runoff. In crowded, closely matched races, it's possible that only two Republicans advance to the runoff in some districts, or two Democrats. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

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