Republican Diane Harkey got the most votes in the primary for the 49th Congressional from Encinitas into Orange County.
Harkey earned 25 percent of Tuesday's vote, or 28,191 votes. But looking deeper into Tuesday's results shows winning it all in November is no sure thing.
Democrats have been aggressively targeting the House seat Republican Darrell Issa has held for about 20 years.
Groups such as Flip the 49th protested weekly outside his office leading up to his stunning January retirement announcement.
Now, Democrats will put their hope in attorney Mike Levin - who came in second in Tuesday's top two primary for a ticket to the November runoff. Levin received 18,958 votes, or 17 percent.
"It's a big district," Levin said. "There's a lot of people we have to communicate with and I'm really looking forward to meeting so many wonderful people across this community."
Harkey, a veteran orange county Republican elected official, got Issa's endorsement.
"I am going to try really hard to make your lives better, make the state a better place, to keep our children and our grandchildren here in California," Harkey said.
But analysts say Harkey may be at a disadvantage going into November.
She got the most votes in the primary, but add votes for all four Democrats (55,927) and all eight Republican (53,343) candidates together - and the democrats win.
That's rare for a primary, when turnout is more often conservative.
"Democrats can expect to do 2-3-4-5 percentage points better in November. They're starting with a lead right now," said Thad Kousser, a U.C. San Diego political scientist.
The challenge for Levin will be to get those who supported the three other democrats in the primary - to get behind him.
"Some will say this primary election has left us more divided as Democrats," Levin said in a text message. "But the reality is that thanks to the efforts of the campaigns and organizations like Flip the 49th and Indivisible, more Democrats voted in this race than anyone expected. And now, as we turn to November, the Democratic Party is mobilized in the 49th Congressional District as never before."
In a statement, Harkey's campaign manager said no conclusions can be drawn about November from Tuesday's primary.
"The November election is going to be a different campaign with a different turnout and different variables," he said. "For example, we’re going to see a higher turnout for non-partisan voters, and those are Harkey voters. Diane’s message of boosting the economy and getting rid of some of the regressive taxes in this state is going to resonate with families who are struggling to make ends meet."
The run-off will be held Nov. 6.