Harley Rouda greets supporters at a get-out-the-vote rally in Laguna Beach, California on election day November 6, 2018.ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
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On Saturday night, the Associated Press announced that voters in Southern California’s 48th Congressional District elected Democrat Harley Rouda with 52 percent of the vote, delivering an end to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s 15-term career.
The 48th, which spans much of Orange County, has long been a Republican stronghold. And Rohrabacher, its representative for nearly 30 years, tended to coast to victory in his reelection bids. But like many Southern California districts, it has been slowly shifting to the left. It was one of the original seven California House districts that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeted in the 2018 elections in part because it went to Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. While Democrats felt they had a fighting chance to unseat Rohrabacher, it was a tight race: The polls were neck-and-neck since July; the most recent, released just two days before the election, showed Rouda up by one percent.
Rouda’s job was made easier by Rohrabacher, who has embraced both the president and Russia with gusto. Dubbed “Putin’s favorite congressman” by Politico, he has denied that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016 (despite evidence and indictments suggesting otherwise) and even floated a proposed deal to get Trump to pardon Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in exchange for evidence that Russia wasn’t behind the DNC hack. Rouda‘s campaign wasn’t shy about hitting Rohrabacher on his “Russia problem,” including running a three-minute-long campaign ad ripping him for his positions in a faux debate between the two candidates.
Rohrabacher has also called climate change “a total fraud,” thinks housing discrimination against gay people is fine, and routinely parrots President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration—though he’s been on the anti-immigrant beat since at least 1992. He derisively refers to immigrants as “illegals” who will change “our quality of life,” and has called sanctuary cities “an invitation for criminals from all over the world to come here.”
This year, the district sent Rohrabacher a message—and booted him out of the job he’s had for nearly three decades.