The campaigns are over, but for the re-elected Congress members such as Jeff Denham, there is not much time to revel in victory.
The Turlock Republican and his family flew back to Washington, D.C., early Wednesday, just hours after ballot counting confirmed he had won the 10th Congressional District race against Democrat Jose Hernandez, who conceded by midday.
"I'm taking the rest of the week off to recuperate," Denham said. Then it's back to work Tuesday when Congress resumes its session. "We've got some big issues to address."
Congress must take action before the end of the year if the nation is going to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, which would force major tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit.
"Both parties are going to have to put their heads together," said Denham, 45. "Tough choices are going to have to be made."
Denham promised to work with Democrats as well as Republicans to find solutions.
"My track record is to work in a bipartisan way," he said. "That's always been my priority to get things done."
Now that the election is over, Denham said voters "expect us to act as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats."
Denham is finishing his first term representing the 19th District, which covers parts of five counties, including eastern Stanislaus.
Congressional district boundaries throughout the United States have been redrawn to balance representation based on population counts from the 2010 census.
Now, all of Stanislaus, plus Escalon, Ripon, Manteca and Tracy are in the 10th District.
With nearly 50,000 vote-by-mail and provisional ballots left to count, Tuesday's election gave Denham 80,885 votes, or 53.8 percent, and Hernandez 69,336 votes, or 46.2 percent.
Hernandez extended congratulations to Denham on Wednesday and wished him luck in Congress.
"Our campaign started out as an underdog and unfortunately, we came up short," said Hernandez, a former astronaut and father of five who recently moved to Manteca. "I look forward to continuing to be a part of the conversation of how to address the challenges that face our valley."
Hernandez, who had not run for political office before, said he may challenge Denham again if the congressman doesn't vote in the best interests of the district.
"Folks are going to be holding him accountable," Hernandez said. How Denham votes on measures to address the fiscal cliff, Hernandez said, "will be the litmus test."
Overall, Hernandez said he thinks "we ran a great campaign," but he was disappointed that so much money $8.2 million was spent by independent political action committees.
"It's a little frustrating that local races aren't local anymore," said Hernandez. He wishes there was a cap on how much could be spent on an election, with restrictions put on funds from outside special interests.
Praise for supporters
Hernandez thanked his supporters and "the volunteers who worked tirelessly for this campaign, knocked on thousands of doors and made thousands of phone calls on my behalf."
Denham also praised his campaign workers and the hard work they did to get him re-elected.
"We walked every precinct in the district last weekend," Denham said about his campaign's get-out-the-vote effort.
Becoming more familiar with the new 10th District is something Denham's congressional staff will have to do quickly.
He has three congressional offices in Washington, Fresno and Modesto on Coffee Road. The Fresno office will close permanently by Jan. 1, when that city shifts congressional districts.
Denham said he has started searching for a larger office in Modesto where he can combine his nine or so district staff members.
"We're looking downtown and for something that's freeway accessible," Denham said.
His Washington staff likely will move, too. As a freshman congressman in 2010, Denham got a less-than- perfect space on the sixth floor of the Longworth House Office Building. Now that he has moved up in seniority, he will get to select a better and likely larger office.
Denham's congressional staff also will be shifting, as some positions open in Modesto and perhaps in Washington. Exactly which jobs will be available hasn't been determined.
"We need people who are from the district, familiar with the community and the issues," said Jason Larrabee, the congressman's chief of staff.
Larrabee said those hired in Modesto likely will come from the district, but competition for jobs in Washington is fierce.
"We try to hire people who have the best skills and knowledge of the issues," Larrabee said. "These jobs attract thousands of résumés, and they're definitely in high demand."
To get a taste of what it's like to work for Congress, Denham's offices offer unpaid internships to college students.
For more about internships or potential future jobs working for Denham, contact his Modesto office at (209) 225-4540.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2196.