California’s 52nd district will keep its current representative in Congress for the next two years, as Republican Carl DeMaio failed to oust incumbent Democrat Scott Peters last Tuesday.

The election results were not finalized until 72 hours after voting booths closed, and the final tally came down to 51.25% for Peters and 48.75% for DeMaio, with about 4,400 votes making the difference. Before all absentee ballots were counted, the election was called as a Republican victory, with some news outlets prematurely posting articles about DeMaio being the first openly gay Republican to run and win a congressional race.

Alas, Peters did win, much to the dismay of many Republicans who admired DeMaio’s potential as a “New Generation Republican.”

The DeMaio campaign was hit with a nasty October surprise in the form of sexual harassment allegations from former campaign staffer Todd Bosnich, who is also openly gay. This was followed by the re-emergence of similar claims from DeMaio’s time on the San Diego City Council. DeMaio contended that Bosnich, fired for plagiarism, was merely seeking to exact revenge, and that he was responsible for the May break-in of the DeMaio campaign headquarters days before the primaries.  DeMaio further alleged that Bosnich was responsible for passing on internal campaign documents to the Peters campaign. The Peters campaign handed over the documents to the police, saying they received them anonymously.

The last three weeks of the race for DeMaio devolved into Hollywood-esque drama. But the important question to ask is whether or not these allegations were responsible for DeMaio’s loss. It seems very likely that the scandal turned off independents with weaker ties to the ideological end of DeMaio’s campaign—that is, libertarian conservatism. Die-hard conservatives, libertarians, and those fed up with Peters/Obama/Democrats likely paid little attention to the he-said-he-said drama, but on-the-fence and cross-over voters (i.e., crossing party lines) might have backed out last minute from casting a vote for DeMaio because of this debacle.

And what about the swift-boating of DeMaio from several traditionalist groups that normally support conservative candidates? I suspect little came of it.

Overall, DeMaio could have done more to run damage control on the sexual harassment claims, but the fact that he nearly triumphed in a lean Democrat district and gained national exposure is commendable.  It will be interesting to see where the claims against DeMaio and the counter-claims against Bosnich go, if anywhere. If they are true, DeMaio will probably have to say goodbye to politics, but if they are false then he will definitely have a good shot come 2016.


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