Republican Dana Rohrabacher, 'Putin's favorite congressman,' just lost in California's conservative heartland

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has been unseated after 30 years
(Image credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Democratic real estate entrepreneur Harley Rouda has narrowly unseated Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), apparently ending his 30 years representing California's 48th Congressional District, The Associated Press projected on Saturday. Rohrabacher, a 71-year-old former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan best known for his outspoken support for Russia and legal marijuana, has not conceded the race, but Rouda has declared victory. Rouda, a 65-year-old former Republican, was Rohrabacher's first serious challenger in one of the most conservative districts in Orange County, the home of Richard Nixon, John Wayne, and in many ways the modern conservative movement.

California's 48th District still has a 10-point Republican voter advantage, but Rohrabacher's strong alignment with President Trump and vociferous defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin did not play well in the district. Rohrabacher, a former Cold Warrior, has been nicknamed "Putin's favorite congressman," and fellow California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy was recorded saying in June 2016 that there are "two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." (He later said he was joking.) "The Russian thing was ridiculous," Tony Quinn, demographer and California campaign analyst, tells the Los Angeles Times. "That didn't help him."

With Rohrabacher's loss, Democrats have flipped three of the six seats they targeted heavily, with the other three trending more Democratic with every vote update. At the very least, California Republicans will hold no more than 11 of California's 53 congressional seats. Democrats have already gained at least 32 seats, giving them a 227-198 majority in the next Congress, with 10 races still undecided.

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