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Democratic Rep. Josh Harder defeats GOP challenger in Central Valley district

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Democratic Rep. Josh Harder won election Tuesday to a Stockton-centered congressional district, beating Republican Tom Patti, a San Joaquin County supervisor and businessman.

Harder, who represents a neighboring district, stressed his independence from his party in the Central Valley race, which despite the area’s blue tilt was among California’s most competitive congressional contests.

“I’m incredibly honored our community has put their faith in me once again,” Harder said in a written statement. “There’s a huge amount of work that needs to get done, and I truly believe if we focus on common sense solutions we can get prices down, protect our water, and keep our community safe. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I won’t let you down.”

Patti noted that he was exponentially outspent and accused Democrats of lying about his record, but he said he accepted the election result.

“This is democracy and we move on,” Patti said in a text message, adding that he looked forward to serving another two years on the county Board of Supervisors.

Though the Associated Press called the race Tuesday night, official results will take longer.

Both candidates tried to paint their rivals as beholden to the extremes of their respective parties, but their behavior and messaging often reflected the moderate views of many of the region’s voters.

Patti, a former amateur boxer who trained with Mike Tyson, had said he is not “a Trumpster.” Harder highlighted his disagreements with the Democratic Party on issues such as gas taxes and water. On the ballot, the title he listed was “Agriculture Committeeman,” not a member of Congress.

The 9th Congressional District, altered in the map redrawing following the census, includes much of San Joaquin County, with small bits of Contra Costa and Stanislaus counties.

After the incumbent who lives there decided not to seek reelection, Harder ran in the friendlier electoral terrain. Democrats have about a 15-percentage-point voter-registration advantage over Republicans.

Harder, who grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, worked as an executive at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm before moving back to run for Congress. In 2018, he was one of seven Democrats to flip Republican districts in California.

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