FRESNO, California (AP) – Republicans took 11th place in the U.S. House and third place in California as Republican David Valadao regained the place he lost in the farm belt two years ago.
The former congressman defeated Democrat TJ Cox, who ousted Valadao in the 21st congressional district two years ago, by 862 votes.
Valadao approved President Donald Trump after withholding his support in 2016 – a risk in a swinging circle that the president lost by 15 points four years ago.
But he also stressed his independence, criticizing the Trump administration for family separations at the border and promoting his willingness to work along parties.
On paper, District 21 looks like it should be a democratic citadel: The party has a nearly 17-point registration advantage. But California’s agricultural centers have long been known among reliably voting Republicans and often non-voting Democrats.
Valadao proved difficult after he was first elected in 2012 and defended democratic challengers by focusing on agriculture and other local issues.
That changed in 2018, when Democrats in California took seven seats held by the GOP when voters rejected Trump’s agenda. It was among the 21st, although the results were decided only until the weeks after election day.
While Valadao occasionally tried to distance himself from the Trump administration, the president called the former congressman a “incredible guy” he wanted to get back to Washington.
Valadao, from the dairy family, led the primary field with nearly half of the vote in March.
Cox campaigned for health and immigration reform in a district with a large Latin population. Valadao stressed support for more water for agriculture, while accusing Cox of teaming up with radical environmentalists.
In an online video released this week, Valadao promised to deliver a corona virus clearance package and improve the health care system “so that everyone can get the care they need when they need it most”.
Valadao announced the victory on Wednesday before the Associated Press called for the race. In his statement, he made it clear that his primary goal is to help fight the coronavirus epidemic, Fresno Bee reported on Friday..
“This is Thanksgiving, when the coronavirus continues to spread and our community and nation are struggling, we desperately need help,” Valadao said. “We can only get through this if we stick together as Americans, not divided by political parties. When I go back to Washington, every resident of Central Valley has the word that I will always always put this community first.
Cox has not yet allowed the election. In a Facebook post on Thursday, he said he would not comment on the election results until all votes were counted.