Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

21st Congressional race was a Valadao rout, but Hernandez still has chance to make it respectable

The 21st Congressional District battle between Hanford Republican David Valadao and Fresno Democrat John Hernandez was, in short, bizarre.

Democrats have a 15-percentage-point registration edge in the district, but Hernandez’s campaign was consistently broke, which makes it hard to get out the message. Valadao had a ton of cash and, while the seat technically had no incumbent, an advantage as a sitting Assembly member.

Soon, political prognosticators stopped paying attention, and the race fell off everyone’s radar screen.

Then came a suggestion that Republicans saw some poll numbers that hinted at trouble, and not long after Karl Rove’s super-PAC, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, announced it was spending more than $600,000 in anti-Hernandez ads.

Hernandez predicted a close race.

It never came.

As it currently stands, Valadao has close to a 20-percentage-point lead, 59.9% to 40.1%.

Not surprisingly, Valadao dominated in Kings County, his home turf, winning better than 70% of the vote. Be it Cal Dooley, Jim Costa, or now Hernandez, Kings has delivered spanking after spanking to Democrats.

Hernandez knew Kings wasn’t his strong area. (Not to mention parts of the district in Tulare and his home county of Fresno.) To offset Kings and win the race, he needed to win big in Kern County, where the 21st District has most of its Democrats. Hernandez was even in Bakersfield on election night.

But as of now, Hernandez is winning less than 52% of the vote in Kern to Valadao’s 48%.

Lots of votes still remain to be counted in Tulare and Fresno counties, but because a good chunk are in Kern County, it is widely expected that Valadao’s lead will shrink — though his ultimate victory margin still likely will be substantial.

Kings has around 1,500 provisional ballots left to count, so they are close to finishing.

Kern has close to 50,000, Fresno 78,000 and Tulare around 30,000. The district doesn’t cover all of Kern, Tulare or Fresno counties, so not all those will be in the Hernandez-Valadao race.

Still, that Kern has that many outstanding ballots is good for Hernandez, though outstanding votes still to be counted in Fresno and Tulare could break against him.

Hernandez is down by more than 16,200 votes to Valadao, so ultimately, all he can hope for is that those outstanding Kern ballots will make his loss respectable, instead of a landslide.