OAKLAND, Calif. — Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) conceded to Democrat TJ Cox on Thursday, cementing a 7-seat gain in California for Democrats on their path to the House majority next year.
Valadao’s defeat marked a reversal of early results that led numerous news organizations, including The Associated Press, to declare the Republican incumbent the victor soon after polls closed — a conclusion that proved premature as late-counted ballots broke decisively in Cox’s favor. Valadao ultimately conceded a month to the day after having proclaimed himself the winner.
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“Representing the Central Valley in Congress has been the honor of a liftime,” Valadao said in a statement, adding, “There is no doubt we are disappointed in the results, but we can take pride in knowing we brought about real, tangible change.”
Cox and liberal allies hadn’t waited for Valadao’s concession. The Democrat joined six other incoming new California members in writing the Trump administration last week to request augmented federal wildfire assistance.
As of Thursday, Democrats have now gained a net of 40 House seats in last month’s midterm elections, with just one seat outstanding: the disputed North Carolina district where allegations of fraud have clouded Republican Mark Harris’ apparent, narrow victory.
Valadao, who was first elected in 2012, has successfully repelled challenges despite Democrats’ voter-registration advantage in a district Hillary Clinton carried by more than 15 points in the 2016 presidential election.
It initially appeared he had survived this year, too. Even as Democrats picked off seat after seat formerly controlled by Republicans, Valadao remained in position to prevent a liberal sweep of targeted districts.
That picture began to change as more ballots flowed in and Valadao’s lead shrank. Cox — who posted unprecedented fundraising numbers as national Democrats and allied groups poured in money while the national GOP countered for Valadao — took his first lead last week and did not relinquish it.
“TJ Cox’s victory marks the 40th seat that Democrats have flipped from red to blue in the 2018 midterms, and it is as exciting and consequential as the first,” outgoing DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) said in a statement after Cox took the lead late last week.
This election has already seen California Democrats conquer the formerly conservative bastion of Orange County, flipping several targeted seats there. The defeat of Valadao, coupled with the ouster of Rep. Jeff Denham, extends the party’s rout to the state’s Central Valley.
A sprawling agricultural region that can feel like a different state from the Bay Area, the region has become more promising for Democrats as demographics shift and the Latino electorate grows. Groups targeting Valadao and Denham made a play for those voters by releasing Spanish ads and emphasizing President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.