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Five U.S. House races to watch before November

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With March's primary elections firmly in mind, California is preparing for November's U.S. House of Representatives elections, which are likely to have far-reaching consequences far beyond the state's borders.

Five congressional seats in the Central Valley and Southern California are hotly contested as several Republican-held districts find themselves in the crosshairs of a Democratic party seeking to retake control of the House. These regions are among the few across the country where either party has a fighting chance, and are therefore widely seen as key to majority control in 2025.

More: Trump and Biden are “darn even” in the 2024 election. The race could continue here.

Here are the five House races to keep an eye on as the six-month countdown to the November general election approaches.

California's 13th congressional district

Where: Merced and areas of Madera, Stanislaus, Fresno and San Joaquin counties

Republican incumbent John Duarte will run again against Democrat Adam Gray in November.

The rematch pits the first-term congressman against Gray, a former state representative. Duarte won the seat in the 2022 midterms in an extremely close race, beating his rival by just over 500 votes. Both candidates spent more than $2 million at the time, and the first post-primary filings this year suggest voters are in for another expensive horse race. Between mid-February and late March, Gray outperformed the Republican incumbent by $539,000, reflecting the Democratic Party's focus on the race.

Campaign forecasters from Inside Elections, the Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia Center for Politics all say this race is a toss-up.

California's 22nd Congressional District

Where: Portions of Kings, Tulare and Kern counties, including the cities of Delano and Tulare

South of the 13th District is another, the 22nd, which is also gearing up for a rematch between a Republican incumbent and a Democratic challenger.

Republican Rep. David Valadao retained his seat in 2022 by just over 3,000 votes — one of the narrowest midterm election margins in the country. After that narrow defeat two years ago, Democrat and former state Assemblyman Rudy Salas is giving Valadao a run for his money again this year.

Valdao defeated a far-right challenger by more than 10 percentage points in the March primary, but appears to be headed for another close race against Salas. The congressman collected just over 800 more votes than Salas on Super Tuesday, a lead of about 1.4%.

As with other Central Valley races in the 13th District, Democrats have ramped up fundraising for their candidate. In the few weeks before and after the primary, Salas outspent Valadao by more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Campaign forecasters differed slightly in their assessment of the 22nd House election, saying it was somewhere between a bad vote and a vote in favor of the Republicans.

More: A four-way race between Democrats and Republicans is shaping up to be a Central Valley House race

California's 27th congressional district

Where: Northern Los Angeles County, including Santa Clarita and Upper Los Angeles

Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is defending his seat against Democrat George Whitesides in November.

Garcia won the seat in a special election in 2020 and secured his seat in the general election before winning re-election in 2022. All three races were against Democrat Christy Smith, a former state assemblywoman. But in 2024, Garcia's Democratic challenger is George Whitesides, a newcomer to politics and former head of space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

Forecasters see the race as a bad decision. Recent campaign filings show that as of March 31, Whitesides had nearly twice as much cash on hand as Garcia.

More: How these California congressmen could help decide whether beleaguered Ukraine gets more aid

California's 41st Congressional District

Where: Riverside County

While most of California's contentious House races feature relative newcomers who took office in recent years, California's 41st Congressional District is led by a longtime representative, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert.

Calvert, who has been in Congress for nearly three decades, faces Democratic upstart Will Rollins. It will be another rematch race as Rollins looks to gain control of the seat for the second time in a row.

Race observers suggest the district is headed for a Republican victory, but the race could be closer than expected. Calvert won in 2022 against Rollins, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, with less than 5% of the vote, although March primary election results suggest Rollins could see a steeper climb this time, having won 38.4% to his 53% enemy had reached. A surge in fundraising around the primaries left Rollins in the lead with more than $500,000 at the end of March.

More: The GOP has a slim lead in the House of Representatives. These races could decide control in 2024

California's 47th Congressional District:

Where: Parts of Orange County, including Irvine and parts of Anaheim

The race for California's 47th House seat is different than the others, as it is one of a few open seats still up for election this year.

Rep. Katie Porter chose to run for one of them — the U.S. Senate seat once held by the late Dianne Feinstein — leaving her 47th congressional seat open in 2024. The gamble didn't pay off for Porter, however, and he lost to Republican former baseball star Steve Garvey in the Senate primary. Her decision not to run for re-election sparked a wild race between Republican and Democratic candidates seeking to capture the seat in an increasingly purple region.

Republican attorney Scott Baugh, armed with a $1.9 million war chest, will seek to flip the seat after more than five years of Democratic control by Porter. California State Democratic Senator Dave Min will try to keep it in place. The district is considered democratic, but remains highly competitive.

Kathryn Palmer is a 2024 California election fellow for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on X @KathrynPlmr.

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