Republican Rep. David Valadao will defeat Democrat Emilio Huerta in California’s 21st District, The Associated Press projects.
Valadao led Huerta, 58 percent to 42 percent, with 63 percent of precincts reporting.
California’s 21st District includes the south-central portion of the state, encompassing part of the fertile Central Valley. It covers Kings County and parts of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties.
Coming into Election Day, the race was rated Republican Favored by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. But it’s the type of seat Democrats needed to win to make inroads in the House.
While President Barack Obama carried the heavily Hispanic district twice in 2008 and 2012, Valadao had won his previous two races by double digits. In 2014, he defeated former Hill staffer Amanda Renteria, who went on to become the political director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Valadao is a consistent Democratic target because of Obama’s performance and the high percentage of Hispanic voters (it’s a majority minority district). But the congressman has consistently over-performed with Latino voters compared to other GOP candidates.
The son of Portuguese immigrants, Valadao was first elected in 2012. His upbringing on a farm and his involvement with the business side of farming eventually led him into politics. He became active in several trade groups before being approached to run for the state Assembly in 2009, where he succeeded a retiring Republican, although Democrats have a significant voter registration edge in the region.
Valadao, a member of the Republican Main Stream Partnership, is seen as a moderate on many issues. He is a member of the Appropriations Committee and sits on three subcommittees — Agriculture, Energy-Water, and Military Construction-VA.
California’s severe drought has taken up a lot of Valadao’s attention. A bill introduced by the congressman last year aimed to increase water storage capacities and to ease some environmental restrictions.