After nearly a month of ballot-counting, a dairy farmer and former three-term San Joaquin Valley congressman has regained the seat he narrowly lost in 2018.
Former Republican Rep. David Valadao held a nearly 2,000-vote edge over Democratic incumbent Rep. TJ Cox when the Associated Press and other outlets called the race on Thanksgiving weekend. The contest was in the 21st Congressional District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties.
In 2018, Valadao led by about 4,400 votes on election night and declared victory, but after mail-in ballots trickled in throughout the month, Cox was determined to have won by 862 votes on Nov. 28, 2018.
"It was the last-called congressional race in the nation two years ago," said Ryan Jacobsen, the Fresno County Farm Bureau's chief executive officer.
In the most recent race, Valadao worked to blunt comparisons to President Donald Trump by running as a moderate. In a statement after the vote, Valadao credited election workers in the district’s four counties for making sure votes were counted fairly and accurately.
“I’m once again overwhelmed by the Central Valley’s support and faith in me,” Valadao said. “To everyone who fueled this campaign putting in long hours making phone calls, knocking doors and believing in the cause, thank you. I could not have done it without you. I commend TJ Cox for running a strong campaign and thank him for his service in Congress.
“To all those who voted for me and those who didn’t, I will be a representative here to serve and fight for every resident of the Central Valley with an open door no matter your background,” he said.
Valadao pledged to push for more surface water for the Central Valley, a COVID-19 relief package that will bring needed help to frontline workers and small businesses, and a better health care system “so that everyone can get the care they need when they need it most.”
As a congressman, Cox was dogged by several financial controversies, including his failure in 2018 to disclose business interests and failure to timely pay wages owed to three employees of Constellation Mines, a company where Cox was a director until early 2019, according to the Fresno Bee.
In 2020, Cox voted against a bill that would require members of Congress to report tax liens after the Internal Revenue Service placed a series of liens on him amounting to nearly $200,000 from 2017-2020, according to local news reports.
For his part, Valadao, who last served in Congress from 2013-19, has been embroiled in a lawsuit concerning a 2016 accident at his family dairy where an employee's hand was severed, according to the Visalia Times-Delta.