Former House Republican flips central California seat

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David Valadao

FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2015, file photo, Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., poses during a ceremonial re-enactment of his swearing-in ceremony in the Rayburn Room on Capitol Hill in Washington. Valadao has reclaimed the U.S. House seat he lost in the California farm belt two years ago. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Republicans have picked up their 11th seat overall in the U.S. House and the third seat in California, as Republican David Valadao reclaimed the seat he lost in the farm belt two years ago.

The former congressman defeated Democratic Rep. TJ Cox, who ousted Valadao in the 21st Congressional District two years ago by 862 votes.

Valadao endorsed President Donald Trump after withholding his backing in 2016 — a risk in a swing district the president lost by 15 points four years ago.

But he also stressed his independence, criticizing the Trump administration for family separations at the border and promoting his willingness to work across party lines.

Democrats hold a wide registration edge in the district, though California’s agricultural centers have long been known for Republican residents who vote reliably and Democrats who often do not.

Both candidates saw unfavorable publicity tied to their business interests.

In an online video posted this week, Valadao pledged to pass a coronavirus relief package and improve the health care system “so that everyone can get the care they need when they need it most.”

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