Denham concedes in congressional race against Harder; Howze eyes 2020 run

Jeff Denham, shown on election night, has conceded in the congressional race against Josh Harder.
Jeff Denham, shown on election night, has conceded in the congressional race against Josh Harder.

Outgoing Rep. Jeff Denham and the man replacing him in Congress, Democrat Josh Harder, met in person Wednesday morning, Denham’s office said in a release amounting to a concession after Harder was widely declared the victor Tuesday evening.

“It has been an absolute honor to serve our community and represent the Central Valley in Congress over the past eight years,” Denham, the Republican incumbent, said in a brief statement directed to constituents. “The enormity of the responsibility was never lost on me. My wife, Sonia, and I look forward to starting the next chapter of our life.”

A bit after noon Wednesday, Harder posted a Tweet saying Denham had “called me this morning and we had a very productive conversation.” They met together after the call, a Harder spokeswoman said.

Although thousands of ballots have yet to be counted, the latest tally shows Harder ahead by 4,919 votes among 187,721 cast, or 51.3 percent to Denham’s 48.7 percent.

The 10th District covers Stanislaus County and the south part of San Joaquin County. Stanislaus elections workers still have 11,000 provisional ballots plus “several thousand” in other categories, the elections office said Wednesday; late-arriving ballots tend to skew Democratic, and the gap between Harder and Denham has grown since Harder first pulled ahead of the incumbent when updated numbers were released late Friday.

Denham, 51, was elected to the House in 2010, and represented part of the region in the California Senate from 2002 to 2010. He will not grant interviews “at this point,” an office spokeswoman said in an email shortly before noon Wednesday.

Harder, 32, had never before run for political office. He was raised in Turlock, obtained degrees at Stanford and Harvard and was a venture capitalist before returning to the Valley last year to run against Denham.

“I’m honored that I’ve been chosen to serve our community in Congress,” Harder’s Tweet said, “and (Denham and I are) both looking forward to a productive transition that best serves the people of District 10.”

Meanwhile, Ted Howze, a Republican who finished third in the June Primary behind Denham and Harder, said Wednesday he is “leaning heavily” toward running against Harder in 2020. A formal announcement is expected after the final count in this race is released, Howze said.

Howze, considered more conservative than Denham, previously served on the Turlock City Council before moving to Stockton, but said he intends to move back to Turlock in early December, where he still owns a livestock veterinary practice. He filed papers a few weeks ago indicating plans to run again for Congress in two years.

Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390