It’s a rematch: Valley Republican edged out in blue wave wants a shot at Congress in 2020

David Valadao, left, a Hanford Republican, lost his congressional seat to Fresno Democrat TJ Cox, right, in 2018.
David Valadao, left, a Hanford Republican, lost his congressional seat to Fresno Democrat TJ Cox, right, in 2018.

A California Republican ousted in the 2018 blue wave election confirmed on Wednesday that he wants a rematch against the Democrat who unseated him.

Former Rep. David Valadao’s announcement officially sets up a rematch against Rep. TJ Cox.

Last month, Valadao filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. He did not officially confirm he was running after that filing. He also sent out invites for fundraisers for his campaign in Washington, D.C.

Cox, D-Fresno, won the election in 2018 by less than 1,000 votes, and the election was originally called for Valadao of Hanford before ballot counting had been completed.

“David Valadao has been a tireless fighter for the Central Valley, and I am beyond thrilled he has decided to run in 2020,” said Vernon Costa, a spokesman for Valadao. “David’s record of results will serve as a stark contrast to TJ Cox’s corruption and I look forward to his return to Congress.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already taken out digital ads against Valadao, aligning his voting record to President Donald Trump and pointing out his votes to strip protections under the Affordable Care Act. The DCCC was quick to hit those same notes in a statement Wednesday.

“In 2018, CA-21 voters rightly threw David Valadao out of office for being a career politician who sided with President Trump 98% of the time in Washington over the needs of Central Valley families and voted to strip health care coverage for more than 60,000 of his own constituents, including those with pre-existing conditions,” said DCCC spokesman Andy Orellana. “Clearly failed Congressman David Valadao didn’t get the message last time, but maybe he’ll learn this time when Central Valley voters again reject the morally bankrupt Trump-Valadao agenda in 2020.”

Cox made supporting coverage for pre-existing conditions a focus of his successful 2018 campaign. And he’s tried to remain focused on more bipartisan, local issues during his time within Congress, such as water infrastructure and helping veterans.

“In less than a year, he has introduced bold, bipartisan legislation to expand rural health care access, secured $10 million for post-traumatic stress research in servicemembers, he’s delivered millions in funding for desperately needed water storage and infrastructure, and just this week, the president signed Rep. Cox’s bill to provide relief to more family farmers during the agricultural downturn,” said Norberto Gonzalez, a Cox campaign spokesman.

But the National Republican Congressional Committee has been going after Cox on some of his business dealings – including a failure to disclose certain business interests, failing to pay employees and neglecting to pay some taxes, resulting in personal and business liens against him – calling him “shady” and trying to align him with “socialist” beliefs of the more progressive wing of Democrats.

“TJ Cox is a corrupt businessman who has already proven he is unfit to serve in Congress,” said NRCC spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair. “Cox wants to take even more money out of your pocket to fund his socialist agenda. He is wrong for the Central Valley and wrong for America.”

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Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.