Despite a 20-point Democratic registration advantage, Republican John Lee topped Democrat Loraine Lundquist in Los Angeles’ 12th Council District special Election. Returns have Lee in front of Lundquist by about 1300 votes out of around 32,000 cast, or 52% to 48%.

While Republicans show a pulse in L.A., it is not a strong one. Still, the only Republican council seat on the 15-member city council apparently remains in Republican hands. (Some ballots still need be counted.)

Lee’s accomplishment in a city and state that has turned solid blue in the last few decades is something to note.

Scanning the wreckage of the campaign for clues to the outcome, Democrats will say that the special election had a low turnout and such elections usually produce more conservative voters. In addition, the non-partisan race did not carry party identification next to each candidate’s name on the ballot.

The party contrasts was left to outside Independent Expenditures, which brought out the party differences many times in multiple mailers. The local Democratic Party made a clear effort to help turn out Democratic voters to benefit from their voter registration advantage.

Republican strategists are seeing a Democratic candidate who fit comfortably into the new left Democratic Party come up short. That will probably intensify Republican campaigners pushing the idea that the Democrats have gone off the map on the left. Be prepared to hear “socialism” become an everyday term.

In reality, Lee is a moderate Republican. But, his strength lay in two areas important to district voters: less taxes, more police and public safety.

The two candidates may be at each other again soon. The special election winner filled the remaining time for previous Councilman Mitch Englander who resigned to take a job in the private sector. The primary for the next full term is scheduled for March.