Photo: Kyusung Gong (AP)

In one of the most closely watched midterm races in the country, Democrat Harley Rouda has defeated 15-term congressman Dana Rohrabacher in a traditionally Republican stronghold in California’s Orange County.

Rouda, 56, a real estate executive and former Republican, declared victory on Saturday in California’s 48th District, after the Associated Press reported an updated vote count showing Rouda leading with 52% of the vote versus 48% for Rohrabacher, an advantage of 8,500 votes.

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Rohrabacher had become a national embarrassment due to his unabashed support of President Donald Trump, his bizarre off-the-cuff remarks, his fondness of promulgating conspiracy theories, and most of all, his strange admiration of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In May 2017, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on tape telling other GOP leaders that, ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.‚ÄĚ Most of the country believed him.

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Three months later, Rohrabacher, 71, met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. After that meeting, Rohrabacher‚Äôs office issued a statement claiming that Assange ‚Äúemphatically stated that the Russians were not involved‚ÄĚ in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. That claim ran counter to every assessment made by U.S. intelligence agencies at the time.

Rohrabacher then tried to inform Trump of his ‚Äúfindings,‚ÄĚ but was reportedly blocked by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

According to The New York Times, in 2012, the FBI alerted Rohrabacher that Russian spies were trying to recruit him.

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HuffPost, which described the soon-to-be outgoing congressman as ‚Äúmore of a reactionary than a libertarian,‚ÄĚ listed other stupid things Rohrabacher has said, including that ‚Äúhomeowners shouldn‚Äôt have to sell to gay people and that climate change could have been caused by dinosaurs farting. He called the death of a protester during last year‚Äôs white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, a ‚Äėtotal hoax‚Äô manipulated by ‚Äėleft-wingers.‚Äô He speculated without evidence ‚Äē falsely, it turned out ‚Äē that a shooter at YouTube‚Äôs headquarters this year was an ‚Äėillegal immigrant.‚Äô‚ÄĚ

About the only redeeming quality Rohrabacher has shown in recent years is his support for the legalization of marijuana.

In footage from an interview last February with Voice of America China, Rohrabacher‚ÄĒunprompted‚ÄĒsaid he thought it was OK for Chinese people to eat dogs.

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Dana Rohrabacher in a ‚ÄúMake Surfing Great Again‚ÄĚ hat.
Photo: Damian Dovarganes (AP)

Meanwhile, Rouda successfully worked to drum up support from ‚Äúvoters across the political spectrum,‚ÄĚ the AP noted. He promised to be ‚Äúhonest, transparent, accessible and tireless,‚ÄĚ traits that had been sorely lacking in Rohrabacher‚Äôs representation.

Rouda’s campaign was part of a Democratic push to flip Republican districts that favored Hillary Clinton in 2016. As AP reported, Democrats have taken two Republican seats in Orange County since Tuesday’s election, and two others are threatened.

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Statewide, the AP noted, the GOP has been relegated to third-party status, outnumbered now by registered independents.