California House rematch gets heated as GOP sees opportunity to recapture seat

FULLERTON, CA - OCTOBER 04: Democratic congressional candidate TJ Cox (CA-21) speaks at a 2018 mid-term elections rally on October 4, 2018 in Fullerton, California. The event, at California State University, Fullerton, was led by former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and was held for five California Democratic congressional candidates. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

House Republicans view California’s 21st Congressional District as a strong pickup opportunity in the party’s longshot bid to recapture the majority they lost two years ago. And it’s getting ugly on the ground in the Central Valley as the race tightens and both campaigns throw jabs.

Rep. T.J. Cox, a California Democrat who won the seat in 2018 against Republican incumbent Rep. David Valadao, is locked in a brutal rematch to hold the district, extending across Kings County and areas of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties.

Cox raised almost as much as Valadao in 2018 and beat the California Republican by less than 1,000 votes. The district was one of seven Republicans lost in California, as House Democrats won their first majority in eight years. Now, it’s a key component in Hosue Republican efforts to regain the majority, which will take a net pickup of about 17 seats. That’s a prospect that looks more difficult since Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads President Trump in polls.

Cox and Valadao are nearly neck and neck in terms of their current fundraising and cash on hand levels. And the Cook Political Report rates the race as a tossup in the D+5 Democratic district.