After months of speculation, former Rep. David Valadao has filed to run against Rep. TJ Cox – again.
The move sets up a rematch between Valadao, a Republican from Hanford, and Cox, D-Fresno. Cox won against then-incumbent Valadao by less than 1,000 votes in 2018. Valadao was originally declared the winner, but in the weeks and even months after the race, a count of ballots continued, and Cox was declared the victor.
Valadao hinted to The Bakersfield Californian on Wednesday that he would be running, but would not declare his candidacy.
“We’re not making any announcements yet,” Valadao told the newspaper. “We’re looking at it but we’re not ready. We have been making calls, talking to people.”
But his statement of candidacy appeared on the Federal Election Commission website, dated Tuesday, declaring his intention to run for California’s 21st Congressional District in 2020.
The National Republican Congressional Committee referred comments to Valadao’s representatives.
“When David has something to say we are sure he will say it,” said Vern Costa, chairman of the Kings County Republican Party. “In the meantime, TJ Cox should cherish the remaining days he has left in Congress.”
Valadao said as recently as last week that he was “milking cows” and still deciding.
The rematch could be costlier and uglier than 2018.
The NRCC named the district one of its targets and has doggedly attacked Cox during his first six months in office.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it will defend the seat, meaning much more money and outside group involvement in the district than there was in 2018.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, said he was glad to see his former colleague try to get his seat back, saying the 2018 blue wave and the new “ballot harvesting” laws – a term for a legal practice in California that involves delivering someone else’s filled-out ballot – combined for Valadao’s defeat.
“I think the last election was an anomaly,” LaMalfa said. “Every election is going to look a little bit different, now you’ve got the presidential, and how is Trump going to do in California with whoever the Democrats put up.”