LOS ANGELES (AP) – Candidates across California knocked on voters’ doors and begged for support at late-night campaign rallies Monday, hoping to influence the outcome of races for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the next mayor of Los Angeles and to test long-standing democratic rule over the country’s most populous state.
Vice President Kamala Harris campaigned on behalf of Democratic candidates at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she sought to boost turnout in a midterm election year when the White House party historically loses seats in Congress.
California has a number of competitive congressional races that will play for control of the House, and Democrats will be defending their fragile majority. Harris also nominated Los Angeles mayoral candidate Karen Bass, a Democratic congresswoman who joined her on stage and could become the city’s first woman and second black person.
As Republicans appeared poised to take control of the House and possibly the Senate, Harris warned of a continued threat to reproductive rights across the country after the Supreme Court struck down women’s constitutional protections for abortion in June. Echoing President Joe Biden, she also touted legislative victories that will secure more money for water and transportation projects and warned of threats to democracy in a politically divided country.
“We know the election is important, and the stakes remain high,” Harris, a former California attorney general, told the cheering crowd. “When we fight, we win.”
There is little uncertainty in the races on the ballot: Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, both Democrats, are heavily favored to win new seats after facing only token opposition from Republican rivals.
But with Biden unpopular nationally and voters pessimistic about the direction of the nation and the economy, there was a chance for a House upset even in heavily Democratic California, where the party holds all statewide offices and dominates the Legislature and congressional delegation.
The Legislature was expected to remain firmly in Democratic hands, and Democrats are favored in contests for statewide office.
The last Republican to win a state election in California was in 2006.
The threat of severe weather across California posed a possible challenge for Republicans, who were expected to see a big turnout at the polls on Election Day after former President Donald Trump’s repeated, baseless attacks on mail-in ballot security and election integrity.
Election Day could also provide hints about the future for Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In recent months, Newsom has fueled speculation about a possible presidential run if President Joe Biden reverses course and does not seek a second term. The governor is looking for a commanding victory on Tuesday, which could provide a springboard for his next move.
There is also widespread speculation about the future of Pelosi, 82, if Democrats lose the House. She is expected to easily win re-election in her San Francisco district, although some speculate it could be her last term. On Monday, she spoke for the first time about the attack on her husband at the family home in San Francisco.
At a rally over the weekend in Long Beach, Newsom urged Democrats to shake off suspicion and passivity and get out to the polls.
“Don’t be pessimistic,” Newsom said. “We can turn this country around.”
In Los Angeles, Bass and rival Rick Caruso delivered their closing arguments, with Bass joining Harris at the UCLA rally and Caruso continuing the bus tour through the city’s neighborhoods.
With City Hall in the middle of a racism scandal that led to the resignation of a former City Council president and more than 40,000 homeless on the streets, Bass is a favorite of the Democratic establishment, while Republican-turned-Democrat Caruso is testing whether they can swing the city to the political right and expand the police department. .
“Is everybody going to put in your ballot?” Bass asked the UCLA crowd, drawing cheers. “We have a crisis in our city.”
Advertisements played continuously on television. In one, Bass appears with former President Barack Obama. Another focus is the third straight race between U.S. Rep. Mike Garcia and Democrat Christy Smith, in a district north of Los Angeles.
Competitive House districts are a rarity in heavily Democratic California and tarnish its national reputation as a liberal stronghold. But pockets of conservative strength remain, even as Democrats hold a commanding lead in voter registration — nearly 2 to 1 statewide.
In a closely matched district anchored in Orange County between Rep. Michelle Steel, a South Korean immigrant, and Democrat Jay Chen, a Navy reservist and the son of Taiwanese immigrants, Steel spent the last full day of the campaign reaching out to voters.
“She’s knocking on doors, working the phones,” campaign adviser Lance Trover said. She tweeted photos showing her visiting homes with Jessica Milan Patterson, the state GOP chairwoman.
“It’s time to get inflation under control, crack down on crime and lower gas prices for working-class families,” Steel wrote.
Chen posted a photo of himself in a room full of volunteers, getting ready to walk around the station. He urged supporters to “sign up for another shift” to knock on doors in the district.
Incumbent Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who is locked in a toss-up race with Republican Scott Baugh in Orange County, urged supporters to turn in their ballots.
“We can beat this,” she tweeted. “Be sure to remind your friends and neighbors to make their voices heard!”