Local Election

Valadao defeats Cox in 21st Congressional District

Rep. David Valadao, left, a Hanford Republican, and Fresno Democrat TJ Cox are running in California’s Congressional District 21 November election race.
Rep. David Valadao, left, a Hanford Republican, and Fresno Democrat TJ Cox are running in California’s Congressional District 21 November election race.

Republican incumbent David Valadao of Hanford defeated Fresno Democrat TJ Cox in California’s 21st Congressional District.

With all precincts reporting in Tuesday’s vote, Valadao totaled 35,416 votes to 30,577 (54 percent to 46 percent).

Valadao’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Just after 11 p.m., Valadao’s campaign tweeted a thank you message:

“This race is bigger than a candidate or political party. This race is about the those who make the Central Valley such an amazing place. The Valley has always been and will always be my home, and I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to continue serving the place I love.”

Cox’s campaign released a statement just after 11:30 p.m.: “I’m proud of the campaign that we ran and our message of working for the people to deliver health care, jobs and opportunity. There are still many votes to be counted and it’s important that everyone has the chance to have their voice heard.”

Republicans appear able to rest easy, as the ever-solid Valadao repelled yet another Democratic attempt to flip a seat in a district that favored former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump in the 2016 election by 16 percentage points.

Republicans account for just 27 percent of the electorate, just two points ahead of no-party preference designations and a full 16 points behind the Democratic registration.

The race was initially on the national radar as a flippable seat for Democrats, whose support of Cox cooled slightly as the election drew near.

Nonetheless, Cox drew big-name stump appearances from former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The campaign more or less unfolded along party lines, with Cox frequently taking the offensive. He criticized Valadao’s support of President Trump, the Republican tax plan, Affordable Care Act repeal and a lack of movement on the immigration front.

Valadao defended his decisions, saying the tax plan saved families thousands of dollars in one of the country’s poorest congressional districts. He cited evidence of his willingness to step away from Trump and party lines to help his district, most recently in a failed attempt at bipartisan immigration reform over the summer.

After the primary, Valadao began to match Cox’s offense.

He attempted to paint the Fresno engineer as an outsider. Cox dropped out of the crowded race for the 10th District to fill a vacancy left by Democrat Emilio Huerta’s withdrawal from the 21st in March. Cox does not live in the 21st District, and he claimed both his Fresno house and a home in a Washington, D.C., suburb as his principal residence – a violation of tax laws – until a Bee investigation brought it to his attention.

Cox said his familiarity with the area and business record in delivering millions of federal dollars to health clinics in the 21st District made him the correct choice over Valadao, whom he claimed sought to deny thousands of low-income residents health care under the Affordable Care Act.

The two candidates participated in one live, closed-door TV debate. Valadao declined any further debate and forum appearances.

Both candidates received significant financial support from their respective parties and/or party leaders. Valadao has outraised Cox slightly in the race, pulling in nearly $3 million to Cox’s $2.26 million as of mid-October.

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Rory Appleton: 559-441-6015, @RoryDoesPhonics
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