Dem T.J. Cox declares victory over Valadao in California House race

Dem T.J. Cox declares victory over Valadao in California House race
© Greg Nash

Democrat T.J. Cox on Wednesday declared victory over Rep. David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoCalifornia Republican ousted in 2018 announces rematch for House seat The 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — The political currents that will drive the shutdown showdown MORE (R) in one of Democrats’ top targeted House seats in California, despite the race being initially called in favor of the GOP incumbent.

Cox currently leads Valadao by 0.4 percentage points, or 506 votes, after a new batch of outstanding votes expected to favor the GOP congressman slightly expanded Cox’s lead.

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The Associated Press initially called the race for Valadao, but as Cox jumped into the lead, AP retracted its call on Monday. AP hasn’t called the race yet, despite Cox declaring victory.

“Voters across the district resonated with our message of expanding health care, creating good jobs, and fighting for our families' futures,” Cox said in a Wednesday statement. “I am honored to be the next representative serving all of our communities throughout the 21st District.”

Cox initially trailed Valadao on Nov. 6 by 4,400 votes, but the Republicans’ lead slowly eroded as provisional and mail-in ballots continued to be counted weeks after the midterm elections.

If the race is called for Cox, that means Democrats would sweep all seven GOP-held seats carried by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSaagar Enjeti: Tuesday's Democratic debate already 'rigged' against Gabbard, Sanders Ilhan Omar raises .1 million in third quarter Bloomberg rethinking running for president: report MORE in 2016. And that would bring Democrats’ total number of flipped House races to 40 seats for the midterm cycle.

Valadao has represented California’s 21st District, which includes the San Joaquin Valley, since 2012. Democrats have been targeting Valadao’s majority-Hispanic district for several cycles, especially after Clinton won the district by more than 15 points.

Cox, a Democratic businessman, was initially running in California’s 10th District against Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Ex-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm MORE (R-Calif.). But the House Democrats’ campaign arm convinced Cox to instead challenge Valadao when they got 2016 Democratic nominee Emilio Huerta to drop out.

Democrat Josh Harder, a venture capitalist, went on to defeat Denham by more than 3 points.

Democratic gains dealt a huge blow to GOP members in California’s congressional delegation, including a complete wipeout in Republicans' former stronghold of Orange County. If Cox is officially declared the winner, Republicans will hold only seven of California’s 53 House seats.