The road to winning a House majority runs through California
A ballot is dropped off on Election Day at the Registrar of Voters office, March 5, 2024, in Norwalk, Calif. | Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

California held its presidential primary, along with down-ballot state races, on March 5. While the final results are still being counted in a few districts, some important races already have clear winners. Attention is now turning to the General Election in November, where the fight over which party will control the U.S. House of Representatives for the next two years will be fought in local communities nationwide.

All 435 seats in the House are up for election, and the current slim two-seat majority held by the GOP may be difficult for them to defend. That is especially true in California, where all 52 congressional seats are up for grabs, and nine are considered to be likely pick-ups in this election cycle.

California has the most significant number of hotly contested districts of any state in the nation. The battle to win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives will unfold in a number of these swing districts. These are places where Joe Biden won the majority of votes in 2022, but Republicans won the congressional seats. A few of these are especially important in winning a House majority.


The 22nd District, north of Los Angeles, is a Latino-majority voting district that includes most of Kings County and parts of Kern and Tulare counties. Voters here backed Biden over Trump by 13 percentage points in 2020. There are far more Democrats than Republicans registered to vote here; 60% of voters are Latino, and 36% are young.

Rudy Salas. | AP

According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, this Central Valley district is the most Democratic-leaning congressional district that is currently represented by a Republican, Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford.

The recent primary contest pitted former Democratic State Assemblyman Rudy Salas against Democratic California State Sen. Melissa Hurtado.

In California’s open primary system, where the two candidates with the most votes move on to the general election, regardless of party, there were fears that the Democrats would split the vote and lock the party out of one of the races where they have the best chance of flipping a seat, but those concerns proved overblown.

Salas, backed by the Democratic establishment, defeated Hurtado by a 14% margin to safely secure a spot in the fall against incumbent Valadao. The Salas campaign focused on “fighting for more public safety funding, expanding workforce development programs, expanding veterans’ and workers’ rights, clean water infrastructure, and support for our small business community.”

He had broad support leading up to the March 2024 primary election, including from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, chair of the California Congressional Delegation Zoe Lofgren, State Attorney General Rob Bonta, State Controller Malia Cohen, and civil rights champion Dolores Huerta, along with labor unions and councils.

Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed Salas, saying he was someone who “delivers for working families.” California Sen. Alex Padilla echoed that sentiment, stating that Salas would “be a strong partner in delivering for Valley schools, seniors, and veterans while helping ensure that working families have access to safe drinking water and affordable life-saving medicines.”

United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero, in announcing the union’s endorsement, said, “As the son of farmworkers, who worked in the grape fields himself growing up, Rudy Salas understands on a personal level what farmworkers in the Central Valley experience. That’s a perspective that’s very much missing in the halls of Congress, but one that’s all too familiar for the residents of California’s 22nd district.”

Valadao, the current seat holder, is one of only two House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection and is still serving in Congress. His campaign website said that he “can’t sit silent and let Rudy Salas pursue a radical liberal agenda that will hurt our communities.”

The Valadao campaign focused on protecting the Central Valley water supply and a guest-worker program for undocumented immigrants who work in the district’s agricultural sector. Valadao also said he would work to “make the border as secure as possible by supporting the use of barriers, buying and implementing technology such as autonomous cameras, and hiring more Border Patrol agents.”

AIPAC endorses Valadao, along with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Business-Industry Political Action Committee, and he received a rating of 100% from the California Pro-Life Council in 2021.


California’s 41st District, located in Southern California and east of Los Angeles in the Inland Empire, has become more competitive in recent years following redistricting that added Palm Springs and its large LGBTQ community to the former Republican stronghold. The new congressional district lines have made a difference regarding voter registration.

Will Rollins. | AP

“Over the last several decades, we’ve had large numbers of both Latino and Black residents moving from Los Angeles out into these areas where the cost of living is a little bit more affordable,” said Sara Sadhwani, a democracy fellow at Harvard and a member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission that helped draw the current district maps.

The district is considered a swing seat, and the 2024 race is rated as a “Toss Up” by the Cook Political Report. Its nearly even split between registered Republicans and Democrats—with roughly 19% of the electorate registering no party preference—has placed it on many national lists of congressional races to watch.

Republican Rep. Ken Calvert won the district in 2022 over Democrat Will Rollins by 4.6 points. Rollins recently won the Democratic Primary and will face off again against Calvert in November.

The Rollins campaign is supported by the Democratic Party establishment and many members of Congress, including Pelosi, Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, Raul Ruiz, Katie Porter, Sen. Alex Padilla, and others. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has this race listed on their “Races In Play” for 2024.

The Rollins campaign is focused on the fight against extremism, saying, “It’s dangerous, and it’s led to…mass shootings, targeted acts of hate, and perpetually bad policy agendas.”

The campaign also highlights the need to improve “access to affordable health care, protecting women’s reproductive rights, bringing down costs for hardworking Californians, protecting our planet, and rooting out corruption in Washington.”

Calvert was first elected to represent this district in 1992 and serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and chairs the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He also sits on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. Calvert is one of the most senior members serving in the legislative body and Dean of the California Republican Delegation.

Calvert’s congressional website brags that he “has received top ratings from the Americans for Tax Reform, Christian Coalition, League of Private Property Voters, National Federation of Independent Businesses, 60 Plus Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Survival Committee, and Citizens for a Sound Economy.”

In 2022, Calvert was endorsed by former President Trump and was endorsed this year by AIPAC, the California Pro-Life Council, and the NRA. Some of his primary campaign funders include AIPAC and defense contractors.


The 47th District, located south of Los Angeles, in Orange County, is the only open congressional seat in the state. It was redistricted in 2022 to include new conservative areas in the coastal regions and has become much more competitive as a result. In 2022, Rep. Katie Porter narrowly won this seat by 3.4 points in a hotly-contested campaign against Republican Scott Baugh. The seat opened after Porter announced her bid for the U.S. Senate. (In that primary, she lost out to Rep. Adam Schiff and Republican and former L.A. Dodger Steve Garvey for the top two spots.)

Dave Min. | AP

The recent Primary in the 47th was a Dem-on-Dem slugfest between State Sen. Dave Min and Joanna Weiss, the founder of Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE), a progressive nonprofit focused on public education, gun safety, and other issues.

The Republican candidate, Baugh, avoided severe competition in the primary. At the same time, the two Democrats fiercely fought for a place on the November ballot. In the end, Min was victorious, beating Weiss by 6.6 points.

Min was endorsed by the California Democratic Party, Porter, the California Labor Federation, the Orange County Labor Federation, Equality California, the Sierra Club, and other organizations and elected officials.

As a State Senator, Min, the only Korean-American in the legislature, focused on gun safety, reproductive rights, and the environment. He enacted the first-in-the-nation ban on gun shows on state property. His campaign website states he “authored legislation to end off-shore drilling, preserve and expand our protected open space, and aggressively decarbonize our economy.” Min also received a 100% rating from NARAL (now Reproductive Freedom for All) and Planned Parenthood.

After winning the primary, Min issued a statement saying his victory was “about rejecting the divisive, Trump-supporting MAGA politics that our opponent, Scott Baugh, represents. It’s about ensuring our voices are heard loud and clear in Washington.”

Baugh was chairman of the Orange County Republican Party for 11 years. He was endorsed by the GOP establishment, including Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, and a host of other MAGA elected officials.

So goes the nation

While these races and others provide an opportunity to defeat MAGA candidates and help win control of the House of Representatives, these primaries also signaled some challenges.

Only around 26% of registered voters in the state cast a ballot, giving this primary one of the lowest voter turnouts in state history. Winning these critically important campaigns in November will require building broad electoral coalitions based on issues, door-to-door campaigning in communities of color, registering new voters, and engaging with voters that the two main parties often abandon in their get-out-the-vote efforts.

As the GOP goes all-in on its racist efforts to sow fear about the so-called “crisis at the border” and doubles down on attacks against democracy, reproductive rights, civil rights, voting rights, and the LGBTQ community, the political center in these races could move right on several issues.

It’s going to take mass public movements, voter mobilization campaigns, and progressive political pressure to boost turnout and strip the MAGA Republicans of their control of the House in November.

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Richard Green
Richard Green

Richard Green is co-chair of the Southern California Communist Party USA and a member of the national CPUSA's Political Action Commission. Richard is an active member in a number of local groups working on issues of political action, peace, affordable housing, and support for organized labor and workers' rights.