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Valadao narrowly ahead of Cox as McCarthy holds lead over Mangone

Republican challenger David Valadao took a narrow lead Tuesday over Democratic incumbent T.J. Cox in partial results of California's 21st Congressional District election, while in the 23rd District, challenger Kim Mangone was trailing incumbent Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Valadao, a Hanford dairy farmer and former three-term congressman, had 51.1 percent of the vote to Cox's 48.9 percent with more than three-quarters of all precincts reporting, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Meanwhile, McCarthy, a 13-year congressman from Bakersfield, had 54.7 percent of the vote to Mangone's 45.3 percent with more than half of precincts at least partially reporting.

The race for the 21st District, a majority Hispanic district extending from northern Fresno County to Lamont, has been among the nation's most closely watched congressional races.

It was also a bitterly contested campaign. Among many negative claims on both sides, Valadao accused Cox of failing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and Cox, an engineer and businessman living in Selma, criticized Valadao for a bankruptcy filing that left debts unpaid.

In 2018 the seat was decided by a margin of fewer than 900 votes. In the March primaries, Valadao took 53.1 percent of the votes to Cox's 36.1 percent in a four-candidate field.

McCarthy had been heavily favored to retain his seat in the face of a challenge by Mangone, a U.S. Air Force veteran and former systems engineer living in Quartz Hill.

McCarthy netted twice as many votes as Mangone in the March primaries. In the end, Mangone raised more than $1.2 million — more than any other Democratic challenger to McCarthy — but it still amounted to about one-twentieth of McCarthy's haul.

If Republicans are able to retake control of the House, McCarthy would presumably become Speaker of the House and third in line to the presidency.

The 23rd District stretches from Porterville to Lancaster.