The first official Congressional rematch of the 2020 election cycle took shape yesterday. Former Congressman David Valadao (R-Calif.) announced his intentions to campaign for the seat from which he was narrowly ousted in 2018: California’s 21st Congressional District, located in the Central Valley.
As The Fresno Bee reports, Valadao had already “filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission” in July, without officially announcing his bid. Valadao took the latter step in an interview with local news affiliate KGET yesterday.
In 2018, Valadao was narrowly defeated in his re-election bid by Democrat T.J. Cox, despite Valadao holding a wide lead in the counted votes on election night, which even led to such outlets as the Associated Press calling the race for the incumbent. However, due in large part to California’s legalization of the practice of “ballot-harvesting” with AB 1921 (passed in 2016), as well as the state’s 30-day deadline to count all absentee ballots, Cox suspiciously gained a lead in the late votes 20 days after election day, ultimately edging out a win by just 862 votes (a margin of 0.76 percent).
As per the Fresno Bee, Cox has faced criticism for actions taken during his business career, including “failure to disclose certain business interests, failing to pay employees, and neglecting to pay some taxes.” Cox also came under fire for not actually residing in the 21st District, and instead having a residence in Maryland prior to joining the race. Cox had first attempted to run for the 10th Congressional District before dropping out of that race and switching over to the 21st District.
Following Valadao’s announcement, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a statement calling Cox “a corrupt businessman who has already proven unfit to serve in Congress,” and accusing him of wanting to “take even more money out of your pocket to fund his socialist agenda.” Chairman of the Kings County GOP Vernon Costa referred to Valadao as “a tireless fighter for the Central Valley,” who “will serve as a stark contrast to TJ Cox’s corruption.”
Valadao was previously a dairy farmer who was then elected to the California State Assembly in 2010. After serving just one term, he was elected to the newly-drawn 21st District with 58 percent, winning re-election in 2014 and 2016 by similar margins. His victories were especially notable due to the district being over 70 percent Hispanic, and registering D+5 on the Cook Political Report. Valadao was even re-elected in 2016 while the district voted for Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by a 15-point margin.
A poll released in mid-July depicted Valadao holding a 16-point lead over Cox, and the race is set to be one of the most competitive in the country next year.