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Democrats appear to have avoided being locked out of key California House races

California absentee ballots are still being counted, but Democrats look like they’re in a good position.

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Democrats were worried that crowded fields of candidates would lock them out of the general election.
David McNew/Getty Images

Democrats have won a spot on the general election ballot in every targeted House race in California, avoiding a nightmare “lockout” scenario in November.

Democrats will compete in all 10 California House districts they are targeting in November, including the hotly contested races in Orange County’s 39th and 48th districts. Going into Tuesday’s primary, Democrats were worried the crowded fields of candidates would split the vote and lock them out of key races. California has a “top two” primary system, meaning all Republican and Democratic candidates ran in an open primary for a shot at the first- and second-place on November’s ballot.

Democratic groups spent more than $7 million in the final weeks of the campaign to avoid being locked out. It appears to have worked. The three California districts where a shutout was most likely — the 39th, 48th, and 49th — will all likely have Democrats on the ballot, though absentee ballots still have to be counted before most of these races can be officially called.

This is a big win for Democrats; getting shut out of key races would have been a bad look for a party intent on regaining control of the House this fall. The three races they were most worried about are Republican-held districts where Hillary Clinton won in 2016 — two of which are open seats.

Even so, this battle to turn California even bluer won’t be easy. Democrats aren’t just settling for targeting the districts Clinton won — they are also targeting three where Donald Trump won, and even more where the incumbent Republican outperformed Trump in the 2016 elections. And in the primaries, several Republicans won the majority of the vote — although that’s not always predictive of the general election.

But for now, Democrats are undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief.