(CN) – The race between Republican David Valadao and Democrat T.J. Cox tightened even further on Monday night as provisional ballots from Kern County continue to trickle in for California’s 21st Congressional District.
The race was one of the seven Congressional seats targeted by Democrats after Hillary Clinton carried them despite Republicans winning re-election. Aside from Valadao/Cox, the other six races have been called in favor of the Democrats.
Valadao was ahead by six percentage points on Election Night, with the Associated Press and several network television news outlets calling the race for the Republican on Wednesday.
But vote-by-mail and provisional ballots have made up the seemingly insurmountable gap and most election watchers now rate the race as a true toss-up.
Valadao leads by a mere 968 votes after about 11,000 additional votes were tabulated on Monday, according to FiveThirtyEight. The election-related statistics website estimates that there are approximately 14,000 more votes to be counted in the four counties that comprise CA-21 — Tulare, Kern, Kings and Fresno.
“The most recent updates have Cox (D) over-performing his overall post-election numbers (which are already pretty good) by about ~5 points, however, perhaps because they contain a larger share of provisionals,” Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief tweeted. “If that trend continues, he’d eventually pull ahead by ~500 votes.”
Regardless, the race is going to be close, with many predicting the race will be decided by less than 100 votes on either side.
Valadao’s Latino background and softer stance on immigration was thought to inoculate him from President Donald Trump’s toxicity in the Golden State, where the president is deeply unpopular.
It may hold up, but Cox tried to portray Valadao as a rubber stamp to Trump and his policies, which clearly resonated in a rural district that has historically been deep red.
The Democrats also took a rural district when Democrat Josh Harder beat Republican incumbent Jeff Denham for the right to represent California’s 10th District, a rural area in the Central Valley east of San Jose.
The remaining five Democratic takeovers were all centered in and around Orange County, which is completely Democratic for the first time since the 1930s.
Once described as a place good Republicans go to die by former President Ronald Reagan, Orange County has diversified recently, changing from a wealthy white enclave to a majority minority county.
Furthermore, Trump and the GOP continued to do well in rural areas throughout the United States, but lost significant ground in the suburbs and among educated people of all demographics. Whether rural voters will be sufficient to propel Valadao to victory will continue to be closely watched.