It’s Now Down to Three

By Jim Ellis

David Valadao (R)

Nov. 24, 2020 — Unofficial victory projections are being made for California’s 21st Congressional District in favor of Republican former Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford). It is becoming clearer as more mail votes are being counted and the pool of remaining ballots diminishes to under 10,000, that Valadao has defeated freshman Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Fresno) in one of the few remaining undetermined congressional campaigns.

Real Clear Politics, the Cook Political Report, and the local Fresno Bee newspaper are all reporting that Valadao has won the race, though the former Congressman himself has yet to declare victory and Cox has not conceded defeat.

Valadao, who previously served three terms in the House after his original election in 2012 before losing to Rep. Cox in a tight 862-vote margin two years ago, currently leads the 2020 outcome by 1,618 tabulations.

Cox has attracted 58.5 percent of the vote in Kern County, the district’s largest population entity, but with approximately 9,000-11,000 votes remaining at most even such a large percentage will likely leave him over 1,000 tallies short of Valadao’s total. Over 1,500 votes remain in Kings County, in which the Republican recorded 62.1 percent support. Tulare County, which finds only eight percent of the voting population contained within the congressional district, split almost evenly between the two men as Cox leads there by just 21 votes. Fresno County has fully reported.

The Valadao victory means the Republicans have now gained a net 10 seats with three races remaining outstanding. A fourth undetermined race, that in Louisiana’s 5th CD, is going to a post-election runoff on Dec. 5. While the winning candidate is yet unidentified, the secondary election is between two Republican candidates, former congressional aide Luke Letlow and state Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), so the GOP is assured of holding the seat.

Also, in California, freshman Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) is claiming to have won the north Los Angeles/Ventura County 25th District. Though only leading by exactly 400 votes with what looks to be in the neighborhood of 4,500 ballots waiting for verification and counting, this razor-thin race looks to be coming down to the final few ballots.

Democratic opponent Christy Smith, a first-term state assemblywoman, accused Rep. Garcia’s victory declaration as being “dangerous to our democratic process.” She then immediately filed a 2022 congressional committee with the Federal Elections Commission. Therefore, if Garcia does in fact win the contest, it appears we will see the third edition of a Garcia-Smith campaign two years from now.

In New York, former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) continues to lead freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica), the man who unseated her in 2018. Tenney has an 11,040 vote advantage according to the Real Clear Politics count, a tally that includes the Libertarian Party candidate’s vote total of 6,288. This is a number that other reporting entities often omit. An aggregate of 291,874 votes have been tabulated at this point, in a counting process that has seemingly slowed to a snail’s pace in moving toward conclusion.

If the reported 93 percent of the total vote counted is correct, then approximately 20,500 votes remain to be tabulated. If so, Rep. Brindisi would have to obtain approximately three-quarters of the outstanding votes to overtake Tenney. Conflicting numbers for this race do appear, so it is difficult to obtain a consistent picture. It does appear that Tenney’s lead is strong enough to hold, but it won’t be certain until all votes are finally counted.

The IA-2 recount continues. This is the race that features GOP state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) leading former state senator and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Rita Hart (D) by just 47 votes from a whopping total of 393,677 recorded ballots.

It appears that this count does not include some, or possibly all, of the approximately 17,000 ballots that are considered “undervotes.” These are ballots where the voter did not choose a congressional candidate or their intent is unclear, and the acceptance of some or all will likely determine the victory balance for this campaign.

The counties have 18 days to complete the recount, meaning all must report by this coming Saturday, Nov. 28. At that point we will likely see challenges and potential lawsuits being presented involving the undervotes. The Secretary of State has announced counting guidelines, but the final ballot acceptance decision lies with the county clerks.

It appears that this virtually tied race will be in political limbo for quite some time, so it is unlikely that we will see a clear winner even after the full recount is completed.

At this point, when adding the Valadao victory, the Republicans stand to gain a net 10 seats for a total of 210 in the new House with 222 as the current Democratic total. This number could rise as high as 213 if the three outstanding races, and they lead in all, ultimately fall the Republicans’ way. Should they all turnaround, Democrats would reach a maximum of 225.

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