November 28, 2018 at 12:05 pm PST | by Karen Ocamb
California Democratic win solidifies 40th House seat

Nancy Pelosi is poised to retake the Speaker’s gavel in January. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Three weeks after the historic midterm elections, California continued to churn out victories. Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi secured her closed-door caucus vote Nov. 28, with no opposition, to make her historic, triumphant return as House Speaker next year. The final floor vote is on Jan. 3 after the Democrats are sworn in and retake the House majority. Republicans are also expected to elect California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, considered a friend of President Trump, as Minority Leader.

Not all Californians have been successful, however. Longtime LGBT ally Rep. Barbara Lee from the East Bay area was defeated in her bid to make history as the first black female chair of the Democratic caucus by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Jeffries, 48, a rising star who is considered a potential future Speaker, won by 123-113 votes, a victory for the “youth movement” challenging the established old guard leadership. 

The last midterm congressional race was also decided Nov. 28 in Fresno County, with Democrat T.J. Cox finally knocking off incumbent Republican Rep. David Valadao to become the 40th House seat secured by the promised Big Blue Wave.

The Washington Post called the Democrat wins— seven seats in California alone—a vindication for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) “wading into primaries in swing districts caused months of angry grumbling from the left, including a public rebuke from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and an onslaught of negative coverage from left-leaning outlets like The Intercept. But the leaders of the party committee cared more about winning the House majority than ruffling feathers, and it’s becoming clearer as the dust settles that their strategy succeeded.”

Cox’s win was particularly sweet in California’s 21st Congressional District since he had to be convinced by the DCCC to run against Valadao in the Central Valley, rather than against Rep. Jeff Denham in the Sacramento area. Democratic polling indicated Denham would face a Republican in a run-off in California’s jungle primary. Instead, Democratic venture capitalist Josh Harder ran against Denham, flipping the seat from red-to-blue. It turns out Orange County is not the only anti-Trump county.

Locally, Alex Villanueva, 55, a relatively unknown lieutenant who identified as a Democrat, won his long-shot campaign against incumbent LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, a longtime LGBT ally. Villanueva says he has been discriminated against by the department as he tried to advance his career. “No matter how hard I worked, how much schooling I got, every door was shut,” he told the LA Times. “So I figured, well, there’s one door that’s always open, and that’s [the sheriff’s] office. That’s the one job they forgot to safeguard against.”

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