Republicans Are Out, Democrats Are In. But What Does It All Mean?

I Voted stickers are seen at a polling station on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Update: Nov. 20, 10:40 a.m.

No more campaign mailings, accusatory TV ads or robo-texts. It took awhile, but all of California's U.S. House races have now been called.

Over the weekend, Republican Young Kim conceded to Democrat Gil Cisneros in the 39th Congressional District. With that, Democrats swept nearly all of the competitive House seats in Southern California that the Republicans unsuccessfully fought hard to hang on to.

While the horse race is over for the most part, you may be wondering: what does it all mean? We'll try to sort it out for you:

What happened with the House seats in Orange County?

The final call by the Associated Press of the seats in Orange County came down on Saturday. This was in the 39th, where Cisneros beat out Kim.

Orange County had long been a Republican stronghold. In fact, Yorba Linda, where Cisneros lives, is home to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

So symbolically, the Democrats' victory in the county represented a big shift and signaled that voters are not happy with the Trump administration and Republican leadership.

Two GOP incumbents got ousted — Mimi Walters, who was seeking her third term representing cities like Irvine, and Dana Rohrabacher, who served for 30 years representing communities like Laguna Beach.

What about the competitive House seat in L.A. County?

Katie Hill speaks to her supporters at The Canyon restaurant in Valencia on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Susanica Tam/LAist)

Earlier, a GOP seat representing a district centered in northern Los Angeles County also flipped. Democrat Katie Hill beat out Republican incumbent Steve Knight in the 25th Congressional District.

The 25th was the remaining Republican House stronghold in this north L.A. region, which also includes residents in Ventura County. Like Orange County, it's been changing politically and demographically, yet isn't quite solidly blue.

Hill just won a very close race but told us in an interview that she's already looking ahead.

"We have to move on to 2020, and the reelections are never going to be easy in this district," she said. "But we've got to make sure that we've got the right ground force in place to ensure that the census is well done, that it counts everybody and that we are doing redistricting in a way that is truly representative of our community."

Hill and other Democrats campaigned on a message of change. But what can voters expect now that they're in office?

On Monday, 16 Democrats signed a letter saying they oppose Nancy Pelosi as the next House speaker. Among those on the list were some newly elected progressives looking for a leadership change, but none of Southern California's incoming freshmen signed the letter.

As to what the new Congress members want to accomplish, some have been talking about campaign finance reform, which is a priority of the House leadership.

But, of course, voters can switch their allegiance in two years if they think their new lawmakers haven't delivered on what the electorate cares about. And many voters care about issues like health care and immigration, which are bigger legislative lifts for Democrats.

What happens next for Republicans in California?

Even in their reduced state, Republicans will have a voice. Republican Kevin McCarthy, the congressman from Bakersfield, will likely be picked as House minority leader. So he will have a platform, just as Pelosi did.

But in the California Legislature, Republicans can expect to fight for influence. The Democrats won back a supermajority in the Senate and maintained one in the Assembly.

This means the Democrats can now pass tax increases without the GOP. And they'll be able to override the governor's vetoes, although with Democrat Gavin Newsom as governor, that won't be a regular event, if it happens at all.

How likely is it that we'll see California Republicans make a comeback, given the results of this election and others that preceded it?

In terms of voter registration numbers, Republicans have been struggling in California since about the mid-1990s. Voters who don't affiliate with a political party — known as No Party Preference (NPP) voters in California — have been growing, and now outnumber Republicans.

The latest voter registration report from the Secretary of State's office shows 27.5 percent of registered voters in California list themselves as NPP, compared to 24 percent who are Republicans. Two decades ago, Republicans made up nearly 36 percent of the state's voters.

"Republicans have to ask themselves where are they going to find relevance," said David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University.

McCuan points out a few thousand Republicans hold nonpartisan offices, such as seats on school boards and planning commissions in California.

But the question is whether they can recover enough to regain control of higher offices where the major decisions are made.

Right now, they are not benefiting from the demographic and political changes underway in the state.

Are votes still being counted in California?

Yes, even though the House races have now been called, election officials are still busy counting ballots and a few election results across the state could change.

One House race that the Associated Press called on election night for a Republican has seen shrinking margins and could flip back to the Democratic challenger. In the 21st Congressional District centered in San Joaquin Valley, Democrat TJ Cox is now behind GOP Rep. David Valadao by just 968 votes. Valadao had a lead of more than 4,000 votes earlier in the count.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, more than 1.6 million ballots remain unprocessed in California. Election officials have until Dec. 7 to finish their counts.