The end came just before 5 p.m. Eastern Time on December 6, 2018.
“Despite the outcome of this election, we must remain deliberate in our efforts to improve our community,” said California Rep. David Valadao (R) in conceding his 21st District House seat. “There is always work to be completed and I can’t wait to see what else our community can accomplish.”
With that, the 2018 election has all but ended. And not a moment too soon for Republicans who, with Valadao’s defeat, lost 40 seats – and their House majority. (As the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman notes, the 9.7 million raw vote edge Democrats enjoyed over Republicans nationally is the largest in the history of midterm elections.)
Sidebar: There is still the possibility that Democrats gain one more seat. The result in North Carolina’s 9th District, where Republican Mark Harris leads by 905 votes, has yet to be certified due to concerns about election fraud surrounding his absentee ballot program. It is possible a new election will be ordered.
Valadao was widely regarded as an able and competent member who understood the challenge of running in a Central Valley district where Donald Trump lost by 16 points in 2016.
And yet he lost – struck down by the same problem that afflicted so many Republican members in marginal seats in 2018: How to deal with Donald Trump. That challenge was particularly acute in Valadao’s seat, where almost 75% of the district’s population is Hispanic.
Knowing that political reality, Valadao sought to distance himself from Trump. In 2016, he said: “I am disappointed with the divisive rhetoric coming from this presidential election and cannot support either candidate.”
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Didn’t matter. Although Valadao was comfortably ahead among votes cast on Election Day, his lead ebbed away with each passing day – until Democrat TJ Cox passed him last week. At that point, the writing was on the wall. On Thursday, Valadao bowed to that reality.
The 40-seat loss is the largest defeat for Republicans in a midterm election since 1974. It is the third largest overall seat loss since that time, with only the 63 seats lost by Democrats in 2010 and the 54 seats lost by Democrats in 1994 besting it.
The Point: This was a wave election. It swept out a slew of GOP members in its wake who, in anything close to a neutral national environment, would almost certainly have been re-elected.