Democrat Takes Lead in 7th Contested California Race

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Democrats inched closer to sweeping all seven competitive congressional districts in California on Monday, as Democrat T.J. Cox took the lead over Republican incumbent David Valadao in the Central Valley’s 21st Congressional District.

According to the latest count, Cox took the lead after an additional 1,883 votes were counted from Kern County. Of that, 1,384 went to Cox and 499 votes were for Valadao – giving the Democrat a lead of 438 votes.

It’s a stunning development in a race that The Associated Press and the major television networks all called for Valadao on election night.

“There are still many votes to be counted and each voter deserves to have their voice heard,” Cox said on Twitter on Monday evening. “I’m incredibly grateful and humbled by your support.”

Valadao’s campaign was silent as the count came in.

“Not a done deal yet, but Dems now on track for a 40 seat House pickup,” said David Wasserman, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Report, on Twitter. “That was almost unthinkable on election night.”

While the margin is slim and the result is not final, the trend in California has been that vote-by-mail and provisional ballots still being counted overwhelmingly favor the Democrats.

“In California, Republicans vote early and Democrats vote late,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

If Cox’s lead holds, Democrats will have taken all seven competitive seats in districts with Republican incumbents that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

Cox now stands to join fellow Democrats Katie Porter, Josh Harder and Gil Cisneros who trailed by significant margins early but eventually overtook their Republican opponents Mimi Walters, Jeff Denham and Young Kim, respectively.

Harder, like Cox, ran in a largely rural Central Valley district that has historically been a GOP stronghold, a particularly galling result for a party struggling to maintain any semblance of relevance in the Golden State.

Adding to the party’s frustrations, its former bastion Orange County is entirely blue for the first time since the 1930s.

Along with the Porter and Cisneros wins, Katie Hill beat Republican incumbent Steve Knight, and Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher was trounced by Harley Rouda.

Finally, Democrat Mike Levin beat Republican Diane Harket soundly in a district recently vacated by retiring Republican Congressman Darrell Issa.

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