Republican David Valadao Unseats Democrat Rival TJ Cox In Tight California House Race

Republican David Valadao Unseats Democrat Rival TJ Cox In Tight California House Race
A voter receives assistance from an election worker at a voting center in Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 3, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek
A close race in California’s 21st Congressional District has been called, with the Decision Desk on Thursday declaring challenger David Valadao (R) managed to unseat incumbent Rep. TJ Cox (D).
While the contest is pending official certification, it appears Valadao managed to avenge his narrow 2018 loss to Cox, who won their mid-term clash by less than 900 ballots, largely on the strength of late-arriving mail-in ballots. At the time, Valadao attributed his loss to ballot harvesting, which is when party operatives collect and deliver mail ballots, a controversial practice whose supporters portray as a voter service that boosts turnout, while detractors denounce it as rife with opportunity for election fraud.

Valadao’s victory brings the number of seats in California that flipped Republican to three—and potentially four—more than any other state.

The two other California contests that saw Republicans eke out wins against Democrats were in the 39th District, where Young Kim (R) beat incumbent Rep. Gil Cisneros (D) and the 48th District, in which Michelle Steel (R) won against Rep. Harley Rouda (D).

In California’s 25th District, left vacant after former Democrat Rep. Katie Hill resigned in 2019 amid a House ethics probe, Mike Garcia (R) declared victory on Nov. 20 against Christy Smith (D).

Updated results posted by the Californian Secretary of State’s office on Nov. 24 showed Garcia ahead by 387 votes, slightly lower than the 400-vote margin the previous week that prompted Garcia to declare a win.

“After a long, tough fight, I am proud to earn the privilege of serving CA-25 for another two years,” Garcia said in a statement released Friday. “With only a few remaining ballots to be counted, victory is clear.”

Smith, in a statement cited by Mercury News, called the race too close to call and denounced Garcia’s declaration of victory as “wholly inappropriate and disrespectful of those who have taken the time to vote this year.”

In the 2020 election so far, Democrats have won at least 222 House seats, according to The Associated Press. They are poised for two more years of controlling the chamber, but with a slim majority.

Republicans, meanwhile, have so far flipped at least eight House seats and now have 205 in the 435-member chamber, as a surge of Republican voters transformed expected Democrat gains of perhaps 15 seats into losses potentially approaching that amount.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) several weeks ago bemoaned Democrat losses in districts where Republican votes proved “almost insurmountable.”

“We’ve lost some battles but we’ve won the war,” she told reporters.

By holding the House, Democrats will control the chamber for four consecutive years for only the second time since 1995, when Republicans ended 40 years of Democrat dominance.

Democrats went into Election Day with a 232–197 House advantage, plus an independent and five open seats. With some races remaining undecided, it’s possible that in the new Congress that convenes in January, they will have the smallest majority since Republicans held just 221 seats two decades ago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.