TJ Cox-3 (copy)

In this file photo from Nov. 3, 2020, Rep. T.J. Cox, D-Selma, speaks outside a polling station at the Kern Agricultural Pavilion in east Bakersfield.

Outgoing Rep. T.J. Cox has declared an intention to run again for California's 21st Congressional District seat, though it was unclear Friday how committed he remains because his candidacy paperwork was filed weeks before he ultimately conceded losing the Nov. 3 General Election.

The Selma Democrat indicated in a Nov. 13 filing with the Federal Election Commission he would run for the seat he ended up losing by a slim margin to Hanford Republican David Valadao, who held the seat for three terms before narrowly losing to Cox in 2018. Cox conceded defeat Dec. 4.

A spokesman for Cox could not be reached for comment.

A representative for Valadao declined to address the filing, stating in an email only that the congressman-elect is "fully focused on the COVID-19 crisis and helping Central Valley residents and businesses who desperately need assistance now.”

The chairman of the Kern County Democratic Central Committee, Christian Romo, dismissed Cox's filing as a technicality that doesn't necessarily suggest a definite intention to run. But Romo emphasized the opportunity "is still on the table."

"Typically candidates will open campaign accounts far in (advance) in order to be ahead of the game and collect funds even if they won’t use them in their own campaigns," Romo said by email. "They will even keep accounts open far after the campaigns are over as well. Sometimes you can even transfer those funds to other campaigns." He added other Democrats will likely join the field of candidates within the next year.

The head of the Kern County Republican Party, Cathy Abernathy, declined to comment on Cox's filing.

Former 30th District Assemblywoman Nicole Parra recently announced she plans to take on Valadao in 2022. Her declaration was viewed locally as a bold if possibly premature move to get an early start on building political support, gathering endorsements and raising money for her campaign.

In the filing, Cox, an engineer and businessman, named six committees he said could receive and spend money on behalf of his candidacy: the California Candidates Victory Fund, the Hold the House Frontline Fund, the Hold the House Victory Fund, the Lofgren Victory Fund, Takano California Wave and the TJ Cox Victory Fund. He indicated TJ Cox for Congress would be his principal campaign committee for the 2022 election.

The contest between Cox and Valadao, a dairyman, was notable locally for its bitterness and mud-slinging. Nationwide it was one of the most closely watched battles for political control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The district is scheduled to be redrawn next year. As things stand, the district extends from northern Fresno County to Lamont. It is majority Democratic and heavily Hispanic.

Follow John Cox on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf