SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- GOP Rep. David Valadao has outrun Democrat TJ Cox for a Central Valley seat that has long eluded Democrats despite favorable odds.
California's 21st Congressional District, which tilts against Republicans in terms of registered voters, was one of seven seats across the state targeted by national Democrats soon after the election of President Donald Trump. But Valadao once more proved to be a formidable incumbent in a district that he won with more than 55 percent of the vote in his previous three elections.
Democrats have struggled with ineffective campaigns and low voter turnout in the district, whose population is more than 70 percent Latino, that stretches across the rural parts of Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. The nonpartisan handicapper Cook Political Report had labeled the race "likely Republican."
Valadao, 41, hails from a family of local Portuguese dairy farmers and has withstood Democratic challengers because of his focus on local issues such as irrigation and water storage. Like other Central Valley Republicans, he attempted to gain some distance from the president on immigration. But Trump placed attention on his otherwise GOP-aligned policy preferences, which Democrats attacked as deeply mismatched with the needs of his constituents.
Cox, 55, was a late contender in the race after originally seeking to challenge neighboring Republican Rep. Jeff Denham. The businessman and engineer pushed Valadao on his voting record and what he called inaction on local issues.
Shortly after the race was called, Valadao pledged to return to Congress to work on education and water issues.
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"The Central Valley has always been and will always be my home and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to continue serving the place I love," he said.
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