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Harder now leads Denham by 3,200 votes
Denham Harder pic
Congressional District 10 incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham and challenger Josh Harder can't seem to reach an agreement on where and how to hold a debate.

Now it’s Jeff Denham that has some ground to make up. 

In the first election return update posted Friday, Democrat challenger Josh Harder overtook the four-term incumbent and put some distance between the two 10th District hopefuls – building a lead of more than 3,200 votes and putting the focus solely on the number of outstanding ballots that have yet to be included in the totals. 

With Stanislaus County, where Harder was trailing, processing more than 63,000 late-arriving mail ballots ahead of the Friday update – and San Joaquin County processing nearly another 1,500 – Harder quickly erased the nearly 1,500 vote deficit that he had following the first round of canvassing. 

The news of the young upstart surging ahead of the well-connected incumbent generated political buzz across the state on Friday, and set the possibility of an upset defeat in motion. With millions of dollars pouring into the campaigns in the final weeks from outside groups connected to politicians in Washington D.C., Harder – a political novice – appeared to close the gap in polling ahead of Tuesday’s election. But with vote-by-mail ballots becoming the norm for registered voters in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties, not all of the ballots that were cast for Tuesday’s race were in at the time the first round of votes were completed. 

In San Joaquin County alone there were almost 92,000 ballots still left to be counted as of Thursday, but only a small number of those will likely impact the race between Harder and Denham – only Manteca, Ripon, Escalon and Tracy are within the boundaries that center on Modesto and include most of the populated areas of Stanislaus County. 

With more than 17,000 ballots still outstanding in Stanislaus County, and the historic trend of late-arriving ballots tending to favor Democrat candidates, Harder – a Turlock native who graduated from Modesto High School before earning degrees from both Stanford and Harvard – emerged from Friday’s first update in a much different position than he was in heading into the day. 

Denham’s office did not publicly comment on the news Friday afternoon, but earlier in the day distributed a press release detailing the Congressman’s commitment to fighting for additional water storage for all Californians. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.