Democrat Takes Lead in California House Race Almost Everyone Thought Was Over

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TJ Cox is a Democrat running for the House of Representatives in California’s 21st Congressional district against incumbent Representative David Valadao. I’m writing “running” there because his race is very much not over, three weeks after election day. At 11 p.m. on election night, the Associated Press called the race for Valadao, seeing as he was 8 points in the lead, but because California takes forever to count all of its millions of votes, results still continued to trickle in. And then things started to change.


Five days ago, Valadao’s lead had narrowed to 447 votes. The difference, according to Decision Desk HQ, was in the mail-in ballots, which came in after election night and started to swing the vote heavily in Cox’s direction. The 21st district is a sprawling section of mostly-rural towns and small cities throughout the I-5 corridor of California’s San Joaquin Valley, making it tough to poll and slow to report results.

Per DDHQ, which retracted its own call on the 21st:

Valadao finished election night with an 8% lead over Cox. As the mail in votes came in over the last two weeks, that lead has shrunk to the point we can no longer stand by our call. To give you an idea of how unusual, if not unprecedented, it is for a lead this large to be reversed, the AP and the networks called the race on election night as well.

Today, Cox took the lead. In updated filings Monday evening, Cox broke even and took 438-vote lead, a margin that represents just 0.4 percent of the 110,862 votes counted so far.


For the Associated Press and pretty much every other network that called the race early, this is a pretty major goof. As journalist David Dayen pointed out, this is the fourth race that AP’s going to have to un-call and potentially reverse.


The race, however, is going to come right down to the wire.

Per the Fresno Bee:

Kings County has 1,577 uncounted ballots remaining. An elections official said Monday that the next update would come around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Valadao has done well in his home area, pulling in about 63 percent of the vote.

However, his margin of victory in Kings, all of which falls in the 21st, has actually decreased in recent updates. He was previously pulling in two-thirds of the vote.

If those numbers hold, Valadao would likely pick up around 300 votes in Kings – leaving a Cox lead of around 140.


Seeing as Valadao voted for Trump’s failed, disastrous health care plan and then has spent the past year trying to defend that to his constituents, it’s pretty clear a lot of them won’t miss him if he loses!

Contributing Writer, Splinter