2018 Federal Midterms Election Roundup

By Jenny Nieto
Nov. 16, 2018

As election results continue trickling in, CLSA’s federal government relations team is pleased to provide you with this update on the 2018 Midterm Elections, including the likely makeup of our incoming California delegation for the 116th Congress, and additional details on several key California congressional races you may be interested in. With this month’s elections and looking forward to challenging legislative environments at all levels in 2019, CLSA has already begun the work necessary to ensure our continued success — not only with our returning allies and champions, but with the many newly elected public officials as well.

After a highly anticipated midterm election, preliminary results conclude that control of Congress will be split between the two parties.


  • In this month’s election, Democrats regained control of the House and are currently holding 232 seats to Republicans’ 199 – with 4 races still outstanding (source: Cook Political Report), it’s very likely that the Democratic majority could still grow.
  • California’s 53-Member House delegation is currently (115th Congress) comprised of 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans.  In the Midterms, Democratic candidates in California held on to all 39 incumbent seats, and picked up 5 additional seats to date. As of Nov. 16, two (2) CA races, including one open seat race, are still too-close-to-call.
  • US Senate: Republicans maintained their control in the Senate, and will control at minimum 51 seats in the new Congress. Democrats did pickup two seats, in New Mexico and Arizona, but those wins were offset by Republicans managing to flip three seats (so far) in their favor by winning in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota.  At time of publication, Florida’s open seat was undergoing a recount, and Mississippi’s race will be decided by a run-off.  In California, incumbent Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein sailed to reelection with more than 54% of the vote over fellow Democratic opponent Kevin De León.

Below we have summarized the notable election outcomes for the California congressional delegation after Tuesday’s midterm election.

California’s Congressional Delegation in the 116th Congress will include at least five (5) new (“freshman”) members:

  • NEW MEMBER! CA-10: Representative-elect Josh Harder (D-Modesto) triumphed over four-term incumbent GOP Rep. Jeff Denham (R) in California’s Central Valley. [RED to BLUE]
  • NEW MEMBER! CA-25: Representative-elect Katie Hill (D-Simi Valley/Antelope Valley) successfully challenged two-term incumbent GOP Rep. Steve Knight (R). [RED to BLUE]
  • NEW MEMBER! CA-45: In one of the most watched battles in the state, Representative-elect Katie Porter (D-Laguna Niguel/Irvine) has prevailed over two-term incumbent and key life sciences sector champion Mimi Walters (R). (Rep. Walters was a 2016 recipient of CLSA’s Visionary Award, presented to federal legislators who have shown leadership and commitment to public policies that encourage biomedical research, investment and innovation in life sciences.) [RED TO BLUE]
  • NEW MEMBER! CA-48: Representative-elect Harley Rouda (D-Huntington Beach) prevailed over 15-term incumbent GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R). [RED to BLUE]
  • NEW MEMBER! CA-49: Representative-elect Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano/Vista) defeated California State Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey (R) in this Southern California OPEN SEAT race to replace retiring nine-term incumbent GOP Rep. Darrell Issa (R). [RED to BLUE]

As of Nov. 16, three (3) California congressional races are still too-close-to-call:

  • TOO-CLOSE-TO-CALL: CA-21: In South Central California, three-term incumbent and key life sciences sector champion Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) is holding an approximately 2,400 vote lead over challenger TJ Cox (D). This race was put in the GOP win column on election night, however has moved back to too-close-to-call as ballot counting continued. (Rep. Valadao was a 2014 recipient of CLSA’s Visionary Award, presented to federal legislators who have shown leadership and commitment to public policies that encourage biomedical research, investment and innovation in life sciences.)
  • TOO-CLOSE-TO-CALL: CA-39: In Orange County, former state legislator Young Kim (R) is currently holding a very narrow 711- vote lead against philanthropist Gil Cisneros (D) in this OPEN SEAT race to replace retiring 13-term incumbent GOP Rep. Ed Royce (R).

Other Notable Races

  • CA-26: Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Thousand Oaks) – In Ventura County three-term incumbent Rep. Julia Brownley received 59% of the vote to soundly defeat soap opera star Antonio Sabato, Jr. (R).
  • CA-31: Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) – In San Bernardino, two-term incumbent Rep. Pete Aguilar held a decisive lead of 56% of the vote over challenger Sean Flynn (R).
  • CA-50: Duncan Hunter (R-San Diego) – Despite being indicted on multiple federal campaign corruption charges this past summer, five-term incumbent Rep. Duncan Hunter leads with a promising 54% of the vote over small business owner Ammar Campa-Najjar (D).
  • A notable non-California race… MN-3: Rep. Erik Paulsen (R), was defeated by challenger Dean Phillips (D) who took just under 56% of the vote. Rep. Paulsen has been a staunch ally for the life sciences sector nationally, including leading bipartisan efforts to repeal the medical device excise tax. He was also a 2018 recipient of CLSA’s Visionary Award, presented to federal legislators who have shown leadership and commitment to public policies that encourage biomedical research, investment and innovation in life sciences.

Party & Committee Leadership Changes

  • California’s own Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) was elected by the House Republican Conference to be House Minority Leader in the 116th Congress. According to sources in the room, he easily beat back a challenge from conservative hard-liner Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) by a vote of 159-43.
  • The House Democratic Caucus will hold Leadership Elections after the Thanksgiving holiday, on Wed., November 28th. At this time, California Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has announced her intention to seek the nomination for Speaker.  The full House will vote after the 116th Congress convenes in January – House rules say the candidate who wins the race must secure a majority of votes from the members who attend and actually cast votes for a candidate. Should all members attend and vote, a candidate would need to secure at least 218 votes to win the Speakership.
  • Bay Area Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Silicon Valley) has announced her intention to seek the chairwomanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health. Her office’s press release and text of the letter circulated to E&C Democratic colleagues, detailing her interest and qualifications, is available here.
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D- Burbank) is likely to gain the gavel as Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) is poised to become Chair of the House Financial Services Committee.

The Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference will meet separately later this year to determine new committee ratios and make leadership and committee assignments. Given the sheer size of our congressional delegation, and with most of the members aligning with the majority Democratic party, we do expect California Democrats to secure additional seats on key committees of jurisdiction for life sciences sector issues. We will provide detailed updates on these changes as more information becomes available.

As the trade association representing the life sciences sector in California, CLSA looks forward to working with bipartisan members of our congressional delegation to identify and advance thoughtful, responsible policies that will ensure California continues to foster biomedical research, economic investment and job creation.

If you have any questions, or would like more background on any of the races, please contact Jenny Nieto, CLSA’s Vice President of Federal Government Relations & Alliance Development (