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Harder poised to win second term in House

Congressman Josh Harder appears to be headed back to Washington D.C. for a second term.

While the official certification of the election is still more than a month away, Harder – a Turlock Democrat – had amassed 107,081 votes to the 74,492 votes for Republican challenger Ted Howze to take an early lead in ballot tabulations as of Thursday evening.

Harder was first elected in 2018 after a come-from-behind victory over entrenched Republican Jeff Denham – spurred largely by absentee ballots that were counted after the election.

While California’s 10th Congressional district enjoys a 12.5 point Democratic edge in San Joaquin County, the majority of the district lies in Stanislaus County where Democrats enjoy only a 2.5 point registration advantage.

Harder developed a reputation for his accessibility and transparency during the early days of the pandemic by hosting routine telephone town halls with government officials to answer questions and quell public concern and made his office available to assist families and businesses that were struggling throughout the two counties that had elected him.

He has taken an active role in water issues in the Northern San Joaquin Valley – instrumental to farmers that provide the economic backbone of the district – and has been one of the leaders in congress to federal funding to treat the nutria infestations that jeopardize the levees that protect thousands of homes in the South County.

“It has been the honor of my life to serve my home town in Congress the past two years – and it is just as much of an honor to receive the support of our community once again,” Harder said the morning following the election. “We proved that we can get more done by finding common ground than fighting each other. I promise to build on the work that we got done over the past two years to bring more water funding and good-paying jobs to the Valley and cutting the costs of health care while protecting everyone’s access.

“Once again, thank you to the people of the Central Valley for putting your faith in me. I won’t let you down.”

While Howze emerged as a one-time rising star in the Republican Party and was drafted into the party’s “Young Guns” program as part of an effort to take back a seat that the Democrats flipped in 2018, a flap over racist social media posts made national news and resulted in his party backing being withdrawn. Howze claimed after the posts surfaced that they were made on his accounts without his knowledge and apologized for the oversight.

Howze initiated a grassroots effort to acquaint himself to South County and Stanislaus County voters earlier this year by organizing an effort to distribute food to families that were struggling as a result of the pandemic.

Howze, a large animal veterinarian, has not conceded the race and on his official Facebook account noted that it could take weeks to find out the results of the election.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.