2020 Primary Analysis: 39th Congressional District

Orange County is the area that I am most familiar with; therefore, the posts on the 39th, 45th, 48th, and 49th Congressional districts will have a bit more detail than the other posts in the Congressional analysis series.

The 39th Congressional District falls within the boundaries of San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County and Orange County. Gil Cisneros (D) is the incumbent and narrowly defeated Young Kim in 2018. We are going to get to see a rematch. This is the seat that Ed Royce used to held prior to announcing his retirement.

This district shows the following party registration for the three largest political groups (the source is http://www.l2political.com):

Republican- 32.7%
Democrat- 35.4%
NPP- 27.2%

I am predicting that this will be the closest race in the State of California for November.


Let’s take a look at the 2018 results for the June and November election:

Suzi Park Leggett (D)- 1.5%
Herbert Lee (D)- 4.2%
Sam Jammal (D)- 5.4%
Mai Khanh Tran (D)- 5.3%
Andy Thorburn (D)- 9.2%
Gil Cisneros (D)- 19.4%
John Cullum (R)- 1.2%
Young Kim (R)- 21.2%
Andrew Sarega (R)- 0.6%
Shawn Nelson (R)- 6.9%
Steven Vargas (R)- 2.9%
Bob Huff (R)- 6.2%
Phil Liberatore (R)- 14.3%
Sophia Alexander (AI)- 0.4%
Ted Alemayhu (AI)- 0.1%
Karen Lee Schatzle (NPP)- 0.6%
Steve Cox (NPP)- 0.6%

Here is a chart that shows the vote total and percentage of the vote by candidate for the 2018 Primary:

Democrat Candidates– 63,548 votes & 45.0% of the vote.
Republican Candidates– 75,439 votes & 53.3% of the vote.
Independent/NPP Candidates-2,458 votes & 1.7% of the vote.
Grand Total– 141,445 votes cast.

I have a rule that the vote shifts 5% up for Democrats and down for Republicans from a primary to a general election in Orange County. Let’s assume that the 3rd party/NPP vote split between the Republican and Democrat. This theory would then predict that the Republican candidate should receive 49.2% of the vote in November and the Democrat 50.8% of the vote.

Cisneros outperformed my model and won in November by with 51.6% of the vote vs. 48.4% of the vote for Kim. Cisneros received 126,002 votes and Kim received 118,391 votes.

Here is a breakdown of the actual results for November of 2018 broken down by County:

Los Angeles– Cisneros got 34,356 votes. Kim got 24,725 votes.
Orange– Cisneros got 78,059 votes. Kim got 80,123 votes.
San Bernardino– Cisneros got 13,587 votes. Kim got 13,543 votes
Grand Total– 244,393 votes cast.

For comparison purposes, let’s list out the different cities (Los Angeles County awarded as one chunk) that each candidate won:

Cisneros– Los Angeles County, Chino Hills, Buena Park, Fullerton, & La Habra.

Kim– Anaheim, Brea, Placentia, Unincorporated OC & Yorba Linda.


Here are the results for the 2020 March primary election:

Young Kim (R)- 48.6%
Gil Cisneros (D)- 46.6%
Steve Cox (NPP)- 4.8%

As expected with the election being held on Super Tuesday, voter turnout was noticeably higher. We saw a total of 169,357 votes cast. 82,391 votes were cast for Kim, 78,902 votes were cast for Cisneros, and 8,064 votes were cast for Cox.

These are not ideal numbers, using my 5% rule from above. Even if you give her all of the percentage from Cox, the model predicts that she would lose by a margin of 47.6% of the vote to 52.4%. This margin though is close enough to where the campaign does truly matter.

Based on the comparison above, let’s take a look at what areas each candidate won in the primary:

Cisneros– Los Angeles County, Buena Park, Fullerton, & La Habra.

Kim– Chino Hills, Anaheim, Brea, Placentia, Unincorporated OC, & Yorba Linda

The only area that flipped in March 2020 when compared to November 2018 was Chino Hills flipping from Cisneros to Kim.

We will now see a November re-match between Gil Cisneros (D) and Young Kim (R). The following are the key factors/questions for each candidate:

1) How will Kim convince a voter who didn’t vote for her in 2018 to vote for her in 2020?

2) How will Cisneros be able to campaign against the political establishment now that he has a voting record and is part of the establishment?

This race is a toss-up and one that we will watch it very closely.

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