Rep. Devin Nunes has won reelection, defeating a challenge from Democrat Phil Arballo in what was a closer-than-usual contest for the nine-term Republican incumbent from California’s Central Valley.
Democrats last year announced plans to try to flip the district, but they did not put party resources into the campaign, and political experts consistently rated Nunes’ seat as unlikely to change hands.
Currently, Nunes is up 7 percentage points over Arballo, but tens of thousands of mail-in ballots are still being counted.
Nunes has held the area’s congressional seat for nearly two decades, consistently winning by 30 percentage points or more until 2018. That year, his national reputation as an ally of President Donald Trump and increased visibility as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee fueled a well-funded challenge by Democrat Andrew Janz. Nunes won the race by 5 percentage points.
Arballo, a financial adviser, sought to flip the district after the comparatively close race two years ago. He conceded the race in a speech Wednesday afternoon, saying that, although he expects the race to tighten, “it is likely that we will come up just short of victory.”
“Our efforts have proven that there is an appetite for change in the Central Valley,” Arballo said. “Thousands of working families said that they want the Valley to move in a different direction, that they believe the type of representation they have is not the representation that they deserve. That means something; that is important.”
If the current 7-point margin holds, Nunes will win the district by a larger margin than he did in 2018.
Nunes’ district covers parts of both Fresno and Tulare counties, which report a total of 158,000 ballots left to count. Three other congressional seats share portions of Fresno County and two other congressional seats include parts of Tulare County.
Neither county’s elections office breaks down how many of those uncounted ballots are relevant to a specific congressional district.
More ballots can also still come in, since California is allowing ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted as long they’re received within 17 days after Nov. 3.
Brandi Orth, the Fresno County clerk and registrar of voters, said the mail-in ballots on hand should be processed in seven to 10 days, adding the priority was to be “accurate and thorough.” The clerk’s website said there was an “undetermined amount” of ballots it hadn’t yet received.
Nunes raised more than $23 million for his reelection campaign. His ads generally characterized Democrats as too liberal for the district. His campaign also mailed to voters a 90-page book Nunes wrote criticizing Democrats and likening their party to socialist regimes.
Arballo raised about $4 million. He sought to characterize Nunes as out of touch in the district. In the past decade, Nunes has not held open town halls, preferring to host private fundraisers and speak on conservative media shows, plus his own podcast.
Fresno State political science professor Lisa Bryant said the latter point likely spoke to a lot of voters.
“I think that the closeness of this race is a sign that the district is changing and should signal to Nunes that voters are likely frustrated with the fact that he doesn’t really appear in the district or speak to any voters outside of fundraisers and media that is friendly to him,” she said.
(c)2020 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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