GOP Sees Slight Edge in Central Valley House Race

In this Jan. 5, 2018 photo, T.J. Cox, then a candidate for the 21st U.S. Congressional District, speaks at a Democratic Party debate at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto. (Andy Alfaro/Modesto Bee via AP)

FRESNO, Calif. (CN) — Former California congressman David Valadao holds a slim lead in his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent T.J. Cox in a rematch of their 2018 election that flipped the GOP stronghold for Democrats and helped them win control of the House.

Valadao has 51.8% of the vote over Cox, who has 48.2%, according to California election data. Valadao leads 4,033 votes as of Friday morning.

Counting continues in the four counties that make up the 21st Congressional District — Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare — which has historically elected Republicans to office.

Writing on Twitter, Cox said Thursday residents in the rural region should be patient as election officials continue counting ballots. 

“This race is far from over,” Cox tweeted. “Tens of thousands of votes haven’t been counted yet and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure every voice is heard.”

In 2018, the hotly contested race was one of the seven Congressional seats targeted by Democrats after Hillary Clinton carried the district, which is dominated by the agriculture industry. 

Valadao had been declared the winner on election night in 2018 by major news outlets including The Associated Press before Cox closed a gap in the race.

When the night was over, the Central Valley congressional seat was the seventh House seat flipped by Democrats in the Golden State.

In his bid for reelection, Valadao again leaned on his background as a Latino and a son of immigrants and on his moderate stance on immigration. 

He released a campaign ad featuring an undocumented Central Valley resident who praised Valadao’s support for the DREAM Act, which in part provides a pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants.

President Donald Trump, who is deeply unpopular in California, has gone back on his word to defend so-called Dreamers, a move Valadao has sought to distance himself from.

On the campaign trail, Cox has defended his record in Congress and painted Valadao as a rubber stamp for the Trump agenda. 

Neither candidate responded to emailed requests for comment by press time.

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