It appears Sen. Josh Newman and former Assemblymember Steven Choi will duke it out for California’s 37th Senate district this year.

Newman leads the primary, as of the latest vote count by the Orange County Registrar of Voters released Thursday, with 30.3% and Choi follows with about 22.5%.

Ballot counting is still ongoing, and county elections officials have until April 2 to report final results to the secretary of state. The OC Registrar of Voters estimates more than 273,000 mailed-in, dropped-off and other ballots remain to be counted for all races, though it’s not clear how many remain in SD-37.

See the latest election results.

“Now that the primary is behind us, I’m looking forward to focusing on my legislative efforts, especially given the state’s fiscal challenges, and then engaging Orange County’s voters in the fall to talk about the things they care about most and how to make California government better suit their needs,” Newman said Thursday.

Newman first won his seat in 2016 but was recalled in 2018 after he voted to raise the gas tax to help pay for transportation projects. But he retook the seat, which covers portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, in 2020.

A former Irvine Unified School Board member, Choi served in the Assembly for six years before redistricting pitted him against another incumbent member in 2022 — and he lost.

In an email Wednesday, the Republican Party of Orange County touted Choi’s primary success, calling the race a “critical chance to break the one-party rule in Sacramento.”

And that’s a message Choi said he’d like to convey to voters as well.

“The current supermajority, one-party status is very unhealthy for the people of California in that extremely bad bills can pass through the legislative process without healthy debate and the ability to them,” Choi said.

Newman was backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in the race, who called him “an invaluable partner in moving California forward” earlier this year.

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“From investing in our public schools to safeguarding reproductive freedom and passing stronger gun safety laws, Josh has delivered real results for his Orange County families,” Newsom said in a statement announcing his endorsement in January.

Aside from Newman and Choi, nine other candidates contended for the seat, including business owner Gabrielle Ashbaugh, neurosurgical technologist Leticia Correa, surgical coordinator Jacob Niles Creer, former Councilmember Anthony Kuo, medical authorization coordinator Stephanie Le, Councilmember Crystal Miles, community organizer Alex Mohajer, BuildersMax CEO Guy Selleck and respiratory therapist Jenny Suarez.

Miles, Selleck and Mohajer follow Newman and Choi with 14.1%, 10.4% and 7% of the votes, respectively.

Kuo, in a social media post Wednesday, said: “The opportunity to campaign with you has been humbling and rewarding. … I lost yesterday’s primary, but I’m a volunteer at heart, so I look forward to seeing you soon doing what I love most: serving.”

SD-37 is the only state Senate race on the ballot in Orange County this year. The district includes at least parts of Irvine, Aliso Viejo, Costa Mesa, Orange, Fullerton and Laguna Niguel.

As of Feb. 20, according to data from the secretary of state’s office, registered voters in the district include 36.9% Democrats, 33.3% Republicans and 23.8% no party preference.