Fresno Democrat Phil Arballo has conceded his defeat to nine-term incumbent Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) following a costly race for the U.S. House of Representatives seat that covers much of Tulare and Fresno counties.
The concession comes after the Associated Press and several news outlets called the race in Nunes’ favor.
“We have put up a hell of a fight, but the race has been called by several news outlets,” Arballo said in a statement. “While we do believe the race will become tighter as outstanding votes are counted, it is likely that we will come up just short of victory.”
Nunes overcame an early, slight deficit to coast to a comfortable victory, as many polls and political analysts predicted.
About 16,500 votes separate the two candidates, with Nunes ahead 7 percentage points and more than 130,000 ballots counted.
Nunes did not return the Times-Delta’s request for comment and has been silent on social media since before Election Day.
The race for the Central Valley seat was the most expensive House contest in the state and among the most expensive in the country, drawing in $28 million between the two candidates.
Nunes, a leading figure in the Republican party and a close ally of President Donald Trump, raked in the lion’s share of campaign cash with more than $23 million raised this cycle, according to FEC filings.
Arballo, a small businessman, emerged from relative obscurity to mount a challenge against the incumbent. His campaign raised $4.3 million and painted Nunes as a DC insider who privileged his relationship with the president above the needs of his constituents at home.
Nunes responded with a media blitz, accusing Arballo of being a socialist and wanting to defund local police departments.
Nunes has coasted to comfortable victories with wide margins for 20 years until Democratic challenger Andrew Janz waged a fierce campaign in 2018 that drew national attention to the rural California district. Nunes won the seat by five percentage points.
“Our efforts have proven that there is an appetite for change in the Central Valley. 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,” Arballo said.
Janz failed to translate the momentum of his 2018 campaign into a political career, unsuccessfully running for Fresno Mayor earlier this year.
Arballo signaled he may have similar aspirations despite losing the 2020 race during a Wednesday press conference.
“We will work every day to move this Valley forward. You’ve not seen the last of us,” he said.
Valadao holds lead
Hanford dairyman David Valado is holding a slight lead against incumbent TJ Cox in a heated rematch for California’s 21st Congressional District.
Cox unseated Valadao in 2018 in the nation’s closest congressional race, eking out a victory with just 862 votes despite Valadao reporting an early lead and many news outlets initially calling the race in the Republican’s favor.
Nobody is making that mistake again this year with about 3,000 votes separating the two candidates. Since every registered California voter received an absentee ballot as a result of the coronavirus this year, it’s unclear how many outstanding ballots have yet to be counted.
As of noon Thursday, Valadao is up 51.4% to Cox’s 48.6%. Neither campaign has commented publicly on the results yet.
The two candidates waged a fierce campaign that often veered into personal attacks, accusing each other of fraudulent business dealings. Cox also painted Valadao as too close to President Trump in a district that holds a significant registration advantage for Democrats.
The geographically vast district covers all of Kings County, parts of Fresno and Kern counties, and a small portion of southwestern Tulare County.
Joshua Yeager covers water, agriculture, parks and housing for the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @VTD_Joshy. Get alerts and keep up on all things Tulare County for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today.
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