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Democrats On Track To Flip 40th House Seat

A district called for the Republican on Election Night looks like it will flip blue thanks to late returns.
David Valadao, left, TJ Cox, right, photograph courtesy of the Fresno Bee

David Valadao, left, TJ Cox, right, photograph courtesy of the Fresno Bee

On Election Night, networks called California's 21st congressional district for incumbent Republican David Valadao over Democratic challenger TJ Cox. The district, which encompasses parts of Fresno as well as the Central Valley, the state's largest agricultural region, has not elected a Democrat to Congress since 1978 but voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Separated by only 5,000 votes on November 6th, Valadao looked like a safe bet. However, as of yesterday, his lead has shrunk to only 447 votes as Cox continues to gain steam. If he wins, it will be the Democrats' 40th House pickup this cycle. 

Valadao's advantage in the district's counties is slipping as more ballots come in. In Fresno County, he is only ahead by 599 votes, with 14,800 ballots left to be counted. He is even losing ground in districts that he was expected to hold onto, like Kings County, where his margin of victory has fallen. Kern County, where 11,000 ballots have yet to be counted, will also be critical for Valadao to maintain his slim lead.

A recount could be possible if the election ends up being this close, but Valadao's campaign would not comment on it, and Cox's campaign, which is more than $250,000 in debt, might make it tricky, since California's lack of automatic recount laws requires candidates to pay for them. 

It takes California longer than other states to count its votes not just because of its large population, but because it has some of the most liberal election laws in the nation. Whereas other states require vote-by-mail constituents to drop their ballot in a few days before the election, California allows you to do it up until the day of. The state also has laws for same-day registration, as well as a lengthy signature matching process to ensure no fraud is committed. 

Of the seven Republican-held districts that voted for Hillary Clinton, six of them have flipped to Democrats. Four of them are in Orange County, which elected Mike Levin, Gil Cisneros, Katie Porter, and Harley Rouda to be their new representatives. Katie Hill, a 31-year-old millennial progressive, won California's 25th District, which neighbors Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, and Josh Harder ousted Republican incumbent Jeff Denham to win the 10th District. If Cox pulls this off, Democrats will pull off a clean sweep of all seven.

As it stands now, Democrats' margin of victory in the House popular vote is 53-45% their greatest showing since the 1974 midterms after Nixon resigned. With new ballots coming in every day adding to that total, the blue wave should be recharacterized as blue lava, incinerating the Republican Party in states where it once had dominance, like Virginia. 

California is no exception, as its state GOP is already in a tizzy over these losses. Another House pickup will be enough to send them into paroxysms as they are forced to grapple with the political consequences of becoming the party of Donald Trump.