Democratic Rep. Katie Porter holds on to seat in tightly fought Orange County race

Rep. Katie Porter addresses a crowd in Huntington Beach on Oct. 17
Rep. Katie Porter campaigns in Huntington Beach in October. The Democrat won reelection in her. Orange County district. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine, a rising star in the Democratic Party, fended off a challenge from Republican Scott Baugh, a former state lawmaker, to secure her third term in Congress.

The Associated Press called the race Thursday, though official results will take longer. Control of the House tipped to Republicans on Wednesday; now California's remaining congressional races will determine the size of the GOP's majority.

"Families can count on me to continue standing up for them, speaking truth to power, and fighting corporate abuse," Porter said Wednesday night on Twitter.

The battle for the 47th Congressional District stayed relatively under the radar for most of the election cycle, but emerged in recent weeks as a fiercely fought campaign, as Republicans built momentum in a number of California congressional races.

Porter, 48, was swept into Congress in 2018 as part of that year's blue wave and quickly built a profile that extended beyond Orange County. Her appearances at congressional hearings, wielding a whiteboard and lobbing tough questions at corporate executives and Trump administration officials, frequently went viral. Her national notoriety became a fundraising juggernaut; she was one of the top House fundraisers this election cycle.

Porter's success on the national stage, however, belied the challenging terrain back home in Orange County. Democrats swept four congressional races in the longtime conservative stronghold in 2018 and surpassed Republicans in the county's voter registration a year later. But the GOP won back two congressional seats in Orange County in 2020 even as Joe Biden won handily there, a sign that a substantial number of voters were rejecting former President Trump, not the Republican Party writ large.

Redistricting posed additional challenges for Porter. Two-thirds of voters in the district had never seen her on a ballot before, and the boundaries included conservative enclaves such as Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, in addition to more liberal Irvine, where Porter lives.

Baugh, 60, ran a campaign that evoked the pre-Trump version of his party. The former county GOP leader made a fiscally conservative pitch that hammered his opponent on inflation and crime. Porter attacked Baugh's opposition to abortion rights and touted Democrats' work to address prescription drug costs.

"I am very proud of the campaign we waged on the issues that matter to the American people," Baugh said in a statement Thursday. "In the end we could not overcome the overwhelming financial advantage that Porter had in this race, but we came awfully close."

Baugh raised $2.4 million for his campaign, but was boosted by more than $8 million in advertising by two GOP-aligned outside groups: Club for Growth and Congressional Leadership Fund, which is allied with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.

Porter’s national fame helped her build an imposing campaign war chest. She raised more than $22 million between January 2021 and mid-October 2022, more than half coming from small-dollar contributions.

The fundraising haul was widely seen as a stockpile for a potential future run for higher office, such as U.S. Senate. But the cash reserves came in handy for Porter to run more than $11 million worth of television ads in the pricey Los Angeles media market in the campaign’s final two months.

Times staff writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.