The 2020 California House races will tell us if the Democrats will further their advance on the red areas or if there is any fight left in the state’s Republican Party.
Over the last two decades, the California Republican delegation in the House has been decimated. As recently as 2006, there were 20 Republicans in the House from California. Now, there are seven. The last time there were that few was in 1946 — when California had only 23 seats, and it has 53 now. The GOP has been wiped out up and down the state, with just parts of the interior still clinging on to the red. While chances are that there will be no complete sweep of blue in California without a gerrymander, things are very good for the state’s Democrats.
How far will that go in 2020? We rate all of the 53 House races in California, showing you if there are any opportunities for Republican flips, or if the Democrats will hold firm.
US House Rating Scale
All 2020 races on Electionarium are graded on a 1-4 scale with the chart below; there are no tossups ever on this website, therefore none are below.
2020 California House Races Current Prediction Summary: July 12
Current California US House Map
Bay Area Map
Los Angeles Area Map
We went back and forth on this one between strong lean and safe for the Republican incumbent, Doug LaMalfa. The thing is that even though the rest of the state is as blue as it gets anywhere in America, Donald Trump won this district by 20 points last time. LaMalfa won here by about ten points during the Blue Wave of 2018. This district is in northeast California, an area politically dissimilar to most of the rest of the state. The 1st District is more like the neighboring 2nd District of Nevada or the 2nd District of Oregon, both safe seats, than the 2nd District of California, a very blue seat. This would be one of the last GOP seats in California to fall, of what few they have left.
The Democrats would get 70 percent of the vote in this seat just by putting a candidate on the ballot. In the northern reaches of the district, which runs all the way up the Northern California coast, it’s not as Democratic-leaning. Then it gets down into Marin County, which makes this seat very safely blue.
The 3rd District, which makes its way around Sacramento, goes up into more Republican territory and then down into the outer reaches of the Bay Area, is not the most Democratic seat in California. John Garamendi does not crack 60 percent in his runs in this seat, but he is entrenched and does well enough. Only in 2014, Barack Obama’s second midterm election, did the GOP make this competitive. In a presidential year, the Democratic nominee will win here and Garamendi will cross the finish line with him with little difficulty.
Democrats took a big bite out of Tom McClintock’s margins here in 2018 but he survived. In a typical election, he’s winning big, but not in 2018. It’s hard to say he or that many Republicans are “safe” in California anymore, but if his fortunes are tied to Trump winning the 4th District, he is more likely than not to be fine.
The district that hosts Napa Valley also dips down into the Bay Area with places like Vallejo and Benicia. As a general rule, there is nowhere in the Bay Area you could add to a district and make it more Republican. In fact, assume it will make it much more Democratic. Even if it didn’t, this district would be safe for the Democrats. Mike Thompson will get over 70 percent of the vote.
Sacramento is a very blue city and it will stay that way in 2020. Republicans did not field a candidate in 2018, but they did it 2020, not that it will make a big difference.
This district, right next to Sacramento, is less Democratic than the district next door. That might not mean much, as Democrats do well here, or have for at least the last decade. Ami Bera had his biggest win in 2018, just 55 percent of the vote, and won his previous three races in close calls. Now, for practical purposes, we are not predicting that a Democrat will lose this seat in a presidential year. After all, if the GOP could not take it during their own midterm waves, it won’t happen now. However, given that the 7th District is more marginal, for now, we will call it a “strong lean” as opposed to “safe.”
Paul Cook is stepping down from his seat, and Republicans find themselves on defense in another one of their seats. Yet, Republicans combined for over 59 percent in the primary and have a state assemblyman running for them in the general election. The GOP rode out the Blue Wave here just fine and will be favored here again in 2020 despite losing the incumbency advantage. For the time being, we will have this as a second-tier Republican hold but this could find itself moving into the “safe” column as November approaches.
This Stockton-area seat has not seen a lot of blowouts since the 2010 reapportionment, but there are also few indications that the Republicans will put up a serious fight here. Jerry McNerney took well over 50 percent in the jungle primary and is a safe favorite in the November general election.
RATINGS CHANGE, MAY 21: D1 to D2
May 21: Democrats flipped this seat in 2018 and thought they would have to work hard to keep it in 2020. That may still be the case, however, they caught a break when the Republican candidate, Ted Howze, came under fire for past posts on social media that have been described as bigoted. The Republican Party has backed off from actively backing Howze, meaning he’s on his own trying to take this seat.
April 8: This was one of the Democratic pick-offs of the 2018 Blue Wave and they are going to have to work hard to hold it. The presidential election at the top of the ballot may help, but this district has been close at the presidential level as well. I would not read too much into the Republicans combining for slightly more than the Democrats in the March primary, but it is an indication that this could be close again.
The Republicans will not be competitive anywhere in the Bay Area and this district is no different.
This is Nancy Pelosi’s seat; she is personally very safe but the Democrats have this seat in the bag as the top two are both on Team Blue.
Barbara Lee’s Oakland-based seat is one of the most Democratic-inclined seats in the country. The Republicans winning this seat is as likely as an Acme anvil falling out of the sky and landing on your head.
Jackie Speier has a very safe seat in the San Mateo-San Francisco area.
Eric Swalwell’s presidential campaign did not work out, but his re-election campaign to the House will.
One district somewhat similar to this one is the 7th District, where it’s Democratic, not overly so, but Democratic enough that they are not going to worry about this in November.
Yet another Bay Area seat that is safe for the Democrats to an enormous degree. Ro Khanna is safer than safe.
The top two in this seat are both Democrats, making it a lock, but Anna Eshoo has been in office here forever and should not have much issue getting re-elected in 2020.
Zoe Lofgren has been around for a long time like Anna Eshoo, and there is not much of a threat in this San Jose seat to her re-election.
Jimmy Panetta won his re-election race in 2018 by a mile and 2020 should not be much different.
This seat was a bit of a surprise loss for the Republicans in 2018 after David Valadao was winning here with some comfort. TJ Cox nipped him by less than a thousand votes in 2018. We have here what could be the closest of the 2020 California House races. It’s a nominally-Democratic district in the San Joaquin Valley, but Republicans have a history of winning around here. We are keeping this a Democratic “weak lean” for now but with Valadao running again, he could for certain take this seat back. The problems for Valadao are that Cox now has the benefit of incumbency, and comeback bids do not always work out for the old guy.
Devin Nunes had a much closer call than he expected in 2018, but this staunch ally of Donald Trump should see his numbers rebound somewhat in this presidential year. There will not be many “safe” Republicans in California, but Nunes is not in a bad position. Still expect Democrats to come for him as he is a vocal, front-and-center supporter of Trump.
The House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, is perhaps the sole “very safe” Republican in the state. Bakersfield is a red area, McCarthy does not have close calls, and in the primary, which was just the two candidates who made the general, McCarthy doubled-up his Democratic opponent.
We expect that Salud Carbajal will be fine in his re-election bid. The Democrats are not going to run up the score here despite this district taking in Santa Barbara, but there is little chance of this seat flipping.
RATINGS CHANGE, MAY 21: D1 to R1
May 21: Here’s what we’re thinking about this race now: the special election was an eye-opener. It was our position that the Democrats would win the November general election regardless of the special result. That may still happen, but Mike Garcia overperformed and Christy Smith was truly weaker than expected. She made some missteps in the spring campaign and they would worry us about picking her to win in November. Further, Garcia is now the incumbent. Smith’s saving grace might be a Joe Biden blowout win in California, but if we change this rating, it probably won’t be until we are much closer to the election.
April 8: This is pending the results of the special election, which at this time we expect the Democrats to win. In spite of that, we think the November general election will also be competitive, but for now, this is a Democratic-leaning seat.
Julia Brownley has had close races in the past, and believe it or not, this seat used to be in Republican hands. That is not the case now and we do not believe that will be the case in 2021. The 26th District has trended more Democratic over the past decade.
The Los Angeles area is very Democratic and this seat fits the profile, even though it borders the much more marginal 25th District. Judy Chu is on her way to a landslide win.
We’re old enough to remember when Adam Schiff beat incumbent Republican and Clinton House impeachment manager Jim Rogan in a “race to watch” in 2000. Republicans will want a piece of Schiff after he led the Trump impeachment charge in 2019, but this district includes Burbank, Glendale, and Hollywood – this is not exactly fertile GOP ground.
Democrats have this seat on lock as both of the top two were of the same party. Maybe this means that Tony Cardenas will have an interesting inter-party challenge, given that his opponent is a progressive challenger from the Bernie Sanders wing, but we know this seat will stay blue in 2020.
This is safe Democratic territory and Brad Sherman will not break much of a sweat getting re-elected.
This was a Republican seat as recently as six years ago, but you would not know it given that the Democrats scored 59 percent here in 2018. In a great Republican year, this seat could end up close, but like many other districts in California, it has gotten more Democratic, not less, over the last few years. Besides, we do not know or think it will be a great Republican year.
It’s hard to see anyone other than Grace Napolitano holding this seat for the Democrats in 2020.
Ted Lieu, the congressman for Malibu, Santa Monica, and RPV, comes from a well-known and beautiful part of Southern California. A rising star in the Democratic Party, he will continue to represent it after 2020.
Downtown Los Angeles is true blue, and we know that because only Democrats advanced to the general election.
Yet another SoCal seat that will mount little opposition to the Democratic tide.
Remember when this area around Palm Springs was represented by Republicans? Sonny and Mary Bono ran the show in this area for a long time, but those days are long gone. Raul Ruiz has done quite well in his last two re-election runs and for now, he is not at a high level of risk. The 36th District is a sad story for the California GOP, a seat that used to be reliably in their pockets but is now out of reach.
To say that this Los Angeles district “leans blue” would be a massive understatement. 75 percent of the vote for the Democrats in this seat would be a disappointing result for them.
Only Democrats are in the running in the general election, so this is a lock, but Linda Sanchez herself looks to be in fine shape for re-election despite a progressive challenge.
Republicans want this seat back after losing it in 2018, and it is a rematch between Gil Cisneros and Young Kim. This was a close race in 2018, with the Democrats picking up the seat by less than 8,000 votes. Not that it’s worth too much attention, but Kim edged Cisneros in the primary and we are in for another tight race in 2020. The question will be if Kim can run up enough of a margin in the Orange County portion of the district (e.g. cities such as Yorba Linda and Fullerton) to offset what we think will be better territory for Cisneros in Los Angeles County. This is one of the few pickup opportunities for the Republicans in California this year.
During the March and April canvassing period, it still was not clear if this general election would be two Democrats or a Democrat and a Republican. It does not matter as Lucille Roybal-Allard is safe.
Mark Takano does not have much to worry about in this Riverside district.
On our map above, this is the only red seat in the entire Los Angeles area. We think it is going to stay that way in 2020 as Ken Calvert has been around for a long time and has weathered worse years for the Republicans than this is likely to be. Donald Trump will probably carry this district as well. The 42nd District is the lone holdout showing what Orange County used to be: red.
Maxine Waters will have to be pried out of this seat. She will be the representative here as long as she wants to be.