Democrat incumbent Julia Brownley was the runaway winner in Tuesday’s primary for U.S. House of Representatives District 26, winning 53 percent of the vote with thousands of late mail-in and provisional ballots left to be counted.
The night’s real contest was the race for second to see who would face Brownley in the fall between Republican challengers Antonio Sabato Jr. and Jeffrey Burum, who engaged in a bitter war of words throughout the campaign. Both are outspoken supporters of President Trump and neither has held public office.
Brownley clinched early in the evening with 46,375 residents casting their ballot for the three-time incumbent.
Despite outspending Burum 4-to-1 ratio and having the endorsement of both the county and state GOP, Sabato trailed the retired Air Force veteran and accountant much of the evening before surging ahead to a comfortable lead after midnight.
As of Wednesday, the Secretary of State had the celebrity actor’s lead at 2,309 votes, a comfortable margin even with many votes outstanding.
“The Associated Press has called the race and we accept the poll findings,” Burum’s son, Alex, told The Acorn.
Sabato said watching the election night results with his family at a private room at The Stonehaus in Westlake Village was a “roller coaster.”
The Italian immigrant said it was emotional to look back on his 1985 arrival in the United States in light of his victory.
“It’s an amazing ride,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling to know I’m still in the game.”
Sabato is a political newcomer who debuted on the national political scene with his support of President Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. The former Calvin Klein model and father of three ran a campaign focused on immigration reform— he supports building a border wall—and he won the early backing of the Ventura County GOP establishment.
The Newbury Park resident moved to the Conejo Valley 15 years ago and after surviving California’s jungle primary system to secure a spot on the November ballot, Sabato said he loves his community more than ever.
“This country does so much for you,” he said. “It’s done so much for me.”
Brownley, who won over slightly more than half of voters in the 26th Congressional District, which covers most of Ventura County plus the City of Westlake Village in L.A. County, said she thinks voters supported her because of her track record of looking out for the district’s interests.
“I have proven to the county I’m hard working and the voters understand I’m on the right side of the issue,” said Brownley, speaking to The Acorn from D.C. where Congress is currently in session. “I am very grateful to the voters of Ventura County.”
The 65-year-old said the message of her campaign going into the general election will be about supporting Ventura County’s economic engines as well as addressing immigration, gun safety and healthcare.
The congresswoman had few words when asked about Sabato.
“That’s the person who came in second place,” she said. “I look forward to the campaign.”
Sabato, who spent $147,000 in the primary compared to Brownley’s $466,000, said he’s never run for office before and he plans to take his campaign against the popular veteran incumbent one step at a time.
“We have a long fight ahead of us,” he said. “I believe we have the right answers for our community.”