California US House Race on Hold as Election Office Closes Due to COVID-19 Exposure

November 11, 2020 Updated: November 11, 2020

Vote counting in a congressional race in a California county has been put on hold as officials said the Kings County Elections Department will be temporarily closed because of a COVID-19 exposure.

Elections officials said that, effective immediately, all canvass operations would cease until Nov. 21.

The announcement puts a 10-day freeze on the tabulation of votes in the 21st Congressional District race between Republican challenger David Valadao and Democratic incumbent TJ Cox.

Valadao, who currently leads by just over 4,000 votes, has 51.4 percent of the vote, with Cox at 48.6 percent, according to the California secretary of state’s election results page. In 2018, Cox edged Valadao by less than 1,000 votes.

The district covers parts of Bakersfield, along with parts of Fresno, Tulare, and Kings County.

In the 2020 election so far, Democrats have won at least 218 House seats, according to The Associated Press. They are poised for two more years of controlling the chamber, but with a potentially razor-thin majority.

Republicans, meanwhile, have so far flipped at least five House seats and now have 201 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.) last week 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 last week.

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.

House Democrats vented during a three-hour conference call last week, in which both factions blamed the other for rhetoric and policies they said proved costly in the campaign.

“We should be honest that this was not a good outcome,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), a moderate freshman, said in an interview. He said terms such as “defunding the police” hurt Democrats by making it sound like they oppose law enforcement entirely, and said they shouldn’t speak “as if we were talking to woke progressives in neighborhoods where 90 [percent] of the votes are for Democrats.”

Republicans, who ran campaigns that echoed the Trump administration’s “law and order” stance, have been heartened by the House results, which many believe position them for a strong run for the majority in 2022.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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