Key Calif. House Seat Goes To Dems

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AP
Democratic challenger Adam Schiff defeated California incumbent Rep. James Rogan, who gained national prominence as a House prosecutor during President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial.

CBS News projected at about 5 a.m. ET Wednesday that the California state senator would beat the two-term lawmaker Republican in the nation's costliest-ever congressional race.

Schiff, a state senator, had 52 percent to 44 percent for Rogan with 92 percent of 27th District precincts reporting. The nearly $10 million race was considered key to Democrats' battle to regain control of the House.

"He had lost step with the district that he represented and you can only do that for so long without it catching up on you," said Schiff, 40, a state senator since 1996. "I think people in our district really wanted to get away from the bitter and strident partisanship which was characterized this congress."

Rogan, 43, said before Election Day that if he lost the Los Angeles-area seat he'd held since 1996, impeachment would be to blame, but he had no regrets.

"I don't think Congressman Rogan will ever regret impeachment," campaign spokesman Jeff Solsby said early Wednesday. "I think he knew from the moment he cast his vote for the articles of impeachment that he was looking into his political grave."

Solsby refused to concede defeat, however, and Rogan went to bed at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday without knowing Schiff had declared victory. Solsby said he had no plans to awaken him with the latest returns, and was confident Rogan would prevail when the final votes were counted.

Rogan and Schiff had spent more than $9 million between them ($5.7 by Rogan, $3.3 million by Schiff) in their tightly contested battle. That tops the previous record of $8.9 million spent four years ago in the Georgia race between Newt Gingrich and Michael Coles.

First elected in 1996, Rogan earned the enmity of Democrats through his role as one of the most vociferous House managers stoking the fires at the president's impeachment trial.

Even without the impeachment issue, Rogan - who opposes abortion rights and gun control - seemed an odd fit for this increasingly Democratic district. For years a GOP stronghold, the 27th - which includes the north Los Angeles suburbs of Pasadena, Burbank and Glendale - now has more registered Democrats than Republicans. And minorities, half of them Latinos, now comprise over 40 percent of the population.

The district voted for President Clinton in both 1992 and 1996, and the two state Assembly districts that cover the area went to Democrats in 1996 for the first time since the 1940s. The region is also home to a number of major film studios, such as SKG Dreamworks, whose high-profile founders - Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen - all contributed to Schiff's campaign.

Despite the Rogan and several other key Republican House losses, the GOP still retained control of the House early Wedesday by the slimmest of margins, barely turning back a ferocious, well-financed Democratic bid to gain a majority.

Republicans picked up six Democratic seats in scattered states, enough to renew their hold for two more years. But their majority shrank when they gave back eight other seats elsewhere, including four in California.

On a night extremely kind to incumbents, only three lawmakers lost their seats, although a handful of others remained in races too close to call.

Including Rogan, the victims included fellow GOP Californian Brian Bilbray and Democratic Sam Gejdenson in Connecticut.

A half-dozen seats remained in doubt by early Wednesday, some of them agonizingly close.

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