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Republicans still not assured local congressional sweep

Kern's most powerful politician appears to have won an eighth term in Congress after balloting Tuesday but it remained too close to call Wednesday whether his local Republican ally will return with him to Washington, D.C.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy enjoyed a 15.4 percentage-point lead Wednesday afternoon in the race for California's 23rd Congressional District race. The Associated Press called the race in his favor early Wednesday, though Democratic challenger Kim Mangone noted many votes remain to be counted.

"As your representative I will continue to fight," McCarthy said in a Facebook post Wednesday morning, "for commonsense solutions to restore our way of life, rebuild our economy and renew the American dream for all. That starts with securing more water, taking care of our veterans and fighting back against Sacramento's liberal agenda. Let's get to work!"

There were only 2.8 points Wednesday afternoon separating the two candidates in the race for California's 21st, a bitter contest being watched around the country after fewer than 900 votes gave the win to a Democrat two years ago.

Former three-term congressman and Hanford dairyman David Valadao, the Republican, was leading Selma engineer-businessman Rep. T.J. Cox by 3,033 votes.

All precincts have reported in both races but a full tally of an unspecified number of mail-in and other ballots might not be available this week.

“We’re encouraged by the early results," Valadao said in a statement, "but we know there are a lot of votes still yet to be counted. Voters appear to have turned out in record numbers and they deserve to have their votes counted fairly and accurately. We have faith in our local election officials to do that.”

Cox urged patience and a careful counting of the ballots, noting his victory two years ago was declared 30 days after an election in which he was the underdog.

"But we out-organized and out-worked our opponent and pulled off the most stunning upset in Central Valley history," he said in a statement.

"We owe it to the Valley to get this right, ensure each and every vote is counted, no matter who wins," he said. "I’m urging the Central Valley to take a pause, so every voice can be heard.”

In the 23rd District race, there was never much doubt the House minority leader would retain his seat. A bigger question for him was whether Republicans would regain control of the House, likely making him Speaker of the House and third in line to the presidency. Little finality was to be found Wednesday but news organizations projected Democrats had retained control of the House.

McCarthy, a major Republican fundraiser, pulled hard for Valadao, enough that when President Trump came to Meadows Field Airport in February and unveiled an administrative effort that could have increased water deliveries to Central Valley farmers, he made a special point to voice support for Valadao.

Mangone's loss was not the resounding defeat McCarthy has dealt others vying for the seat. Mangone raised more money than any of his previous challengers, and in 2018 the Democratic challenger lost by 27.4 points, 12 more than Mangone's margin of defeat.

Mangone wasn't ready to concede Wednesday.

"No one ever thought we would come this far in this campaign against the most well-funded Republican in Congress, Kevin McCarthy," she said in an email to supporters Wednesday emphasizing some of roughly 100,000 votes that remain to be counted locally will weigh in the 23rd District race.

"So," she said, "while we recognize the challenge ahead to come out victorious, we want to wait for all the votes to be counted before making a judgement."

Follow John Cox on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf