FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – Democrat T.J. Cox declared himself the winner of the race for California’s 21st Congressional District on Wednesday, believing the 506 votes he currently has over Republican incumbent David Valadao is enough to seal the deal and flip a seventh House seat in the Golden State.
Cox declared victory after Kings County, which had typically favored Republican incumbent David Valadao, issued their final count showing Cox netted 70 votes over his opponent. While Kern County still has about 3,000 votes to count and Fresno County has about 1,500 according to the respective county voting offices, Cox is doing well enough in both to the point where he was comfortable declaring victory.
“I am elated to announce that we have won the election for California’s 21st District,” Cox said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “Voters across the district resonated with our message of expanding health care, creating jobs and fighting for our families’ futures.”
Valadao has yet to concede but his prospects appear bleak.
“Kings Co., which voted strongly for Valadao (R) on election night, just gave Cox (D) more votes instead, putting him further ahead,” said FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver on Twitter on Wednesday. “And Kings is done counting ballots, so it's hard to see where else Valadao will gain ground. Valadao is probably toast.”
Cox’s apparent victory represents a stunning upset, after The Associated Press and the major networks declared the election for Valadao on election night. But in California, where the late-arriving vote-by-mail and provisional ballots overwhelmingly favor the Democrats who tend to vote later than Republicans, the 6-point lead proved insufficient for the incumbent.
Cox means the Democrats have picked up 40 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and those who downplayed the possibility of a midterm “blue wave” must now reconsider such minimization.
In California, all seven congressional districts held by the GOP but carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 have been flipped.
Like Valadao, it appeared Republican Young Kim would hold off her opponent when the initial counts came in Nov. 6. And GOP Rep. Mimi Walters’ hold on another Orange County seat also appeared firm.
But as the ballots rolled in, both women lost their lead, with Navy veteran and lottery winner Gil Cisneros and Katie Porter – a college professor who once studied consumer protection law under Elizabeth Warren – eventually declaring victory.
In and around Orange County in Southern California, which once functioned as a stronghold for the GOP, other Republicans went down more easily to defeat.
Dana Rohrabacher, whose name came up repeatedly in relation to Russian meddling during the 2016 election, was defeated by Democrat Harley Rouda. Democrat Mike Levin beat Republican Diane Harkey in a district recently vacated by retiring Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. Katie Hill, a 29-year-old Democrat, became one of the youngest members of the new Congress after she beat Republican incumbent Steve Knight.
And in a rural district in the Central Valley similar to the one represented by Valadao, Republican incumbent Jeff Denham held a lead Nov. 6. But that lead waned and last week, the AP called it for Democratic challenger Josh Harder.
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