IRVINE, Calif. — When Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., was announced the winner of California’s 47th Congressional District on Thursday night, it completed an uncomfortably close race for Democrats.
Republican Scott Baugh lost to Porter by around three points.
“It shows Katie connected with her voters. She demonstrated the pain people are feeling from inflation and that she’s doing the work,” said Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County. “They trust her because she’s been standing up against corporations.”
In her election victory statement, Porter said “nobody wins alone” and pointed to the grassroots support and help she had going door-to-door.
Orange County political strategist Jimmy Camp, who left the GOP during Donald Trump’s presidency, had observed earlier in the week that Republicans had been conspicuously light on their ground game.
But Baugh kept a tight race anyway, even running on an anti-abortion platform that doesn’t poll well in California.
The close race has generated doubt among some political scientists over Porter’s platform, which focuses on national issues versus local ones. While she was a co-sponsor on the Green New Deal, University of California, Irvine political science professor Tony Smith said she should drive home water and coastal issues every chance she gets.
“Even [former Republican U.S. Rep.] Dana Rohrabacher talks about the ocean all the time,” he said. “I think next time, they’ll run a better, younger candidate, and she’ll be in trouble if she doesn’t recalibrate.”
Porter indicated an interest in the Senate when Harris’ seat became available, leading many to speculate that she may launch a future bid in the upper chamber.
Smith also pointed to the more than $24 million her campaign raised, with more than $8 million still on hand, according to campaign finance filings.
“Raising more money than you need is a big no-no,” he said. “It makes it harder to go back to your donors for more.”
While that could complicate a race in a statewide election, the bigger problem, he said, is her progressive label. Democrats prefer to run as centrists, he said, and past candidates like Vice President Kamala Harris had to explain her criminal justice record to national progressives when she served as California’s state attorney general.
Porter’s progressive label may just be one part of what would be a difficult statewide election.
“If she can’t run a congressional race and soundly win, then I don’t think she can win a statewide race because it’s much more complicated,” he said.