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Democrats, who already hold 34 of California's 53 congressional seats, are likely to gain more next year under new districts drawn by an independent commission, according to a national assessment of congressional elections by the University of Virginia.

The university's Center for Politics, headed by Professor Larry Sabato, sees Republicans retaining control of the House next year, but Democrats gaining from one to five seats in California, depending on the outcome in four districts it rates as tossups.

"Sabato's Crystal Ball" sees 27 California seats as safely Democratic, with eight more either leaning or likely to wind up in Democratic hands, while 12 seats are considered to be safe for Republicans and two others leaning or likely for the GOP.

Veteran Southern California Congressman Jerry Lewis is considered to be the Republican incumbent most in danger of losing his seat, while GOP Congressmen Brian Bilbray and Dan Lungren are in tossup districts, Sabato says.



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