AP retracts election-night call in California as yet another Democrat pulls ahead

Democrats close to 40 seats: In the last uncalled race, T.J. Cox has pulled ahead of incumbent Rep. David Valadao

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published November 28, 2018 6:00AM (EST)

David Valadao;  TJ Cox (AP/Jacquelyn Martin/Getty/Mario Tama)
David Valadao; TJ Cox (AP/Jacquelyn Martin/Getty/Mario Tama)

The Associated Press and other news organizations were forced to retract their election night calls declaring Republican Rep. David Valadao the winner in California’s 21st congressional district after Democrat T.J. Cox pulled ahead Monday.

“The AP had declared Republican David Valadao the winner. However, Democrat T.J. Cox has taken the lead in the vote count. No new call will be made until the results are certified,” the news organization announced on Twitter after Cox took a 438-vote lead. NBC News also retracted its call.

Valadao led by about 5,000 votes on election night.

There are still thousands of ballots to be counted but they appear to favor Cox. Kern County, where Cox has gotten 61 percent of the vote, still has about 3,000 ballots left, though not all of those are from the 21st district race.

Kings and Fresno counties, where Valadao is slightly ahead, also have thousands of ballots to count. Valadao had led significantly in both counties but the race has pulled closer to even as votes continue to be counted, The Fresno Bee reported.

The vote count is set to be updated again on Wednesday.

Unlike other states, California allows mail-in ballots to be sent by Election Day, which means they aren’t received until days later and aren’t counted until weeks later. The majority of California voters cast their ballots by mail.

If Cox’s lead holds up, Republicans will have lost all seven California districts they carried in 2016 that Hillary Clinton also won. All seven Republican incumbents (several of whom are retiring) voted for the Obamacare repeal and the Republican tax cuts.

"Not a done deal yet, but Dems now on track for a *40 seat* House pickup. That was almost unthinkable on Election Night," tweeted Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.

Indeed, after Democrats appeared to flip around 27 seats on election night, they have now flipped a total of 39 seats in the weeks since with a 40th on the horizon. NBC News reports that Democrats won the House with the largest margin of victory for either party, though gerrymandered districts prevented a much larger pickup.

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver blasted AP for not retracting its call in the 21st district two weeks earlier when it became clear Valadao's apparent victory was not a sure thing.

“Y'all should have retracted your call 2 weeks ago. No credit for it now. This is a case where ass-covering took precedent over journalistic accuracy,” he tweeted.

New York Times election guru Nate Cohn agreed that the race is “shaping up as a total embarrassment for the networks.”

“Getting the initial call wrong is bad, but not being able to see this coming in the post-election night returns is a true failure,” he wrote.

Earlier, Democrats picked up their 38th pickup in New Mexico's 2nd district, where Democrat Xochitl Torres Small was finally declared the winner over Republican Yvette Herrell, and their 39th in Utah, where incumbent Republican Mia Love conceded to Democrat Ben McAdams in that state’s 4th district.

The race between Cox and Valadao in California's 21st district is now the last House contest with no clear winner.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2018 Midterm Elections Blue Wave California David Valadao Democrats Elections 2018 Republicans T.j. Cox