Elections

Denham defeats Eggman for Modesto-area House seat

U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham looks over early election results with Jeremiah Williams, left, and Republican Party field director John Freeman, right, at Denham’s campaign headquarters in Modesto on Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham looks over early election results with Jeremiah Williams, left, and Republican Party field director John Freeman, right, at Denham’s campaign headquarters in Modesto on Tuesday. aalfaro@modbee.com

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, defeated Democrat Michael Eggman on Tuesday night in the high-profile race in the 10th Congressional District.

Denham had 80,668 votes, or 52 percent, with 100 percent of the precincts counted in Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County. Eggman had 73,246 votes, or 48 percent.

The contest has drawn national media attention and heavy spending by both parties, as the Democrats tried to chip away at the GOP’s 58-seat margin in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House Speaker Paul Ryan visited last month to rally Denham’s supporters as the polls showed a tightening contest. At the time, Ryan had backed away from Trump, who was close to victory late Tuesday.

Denham watched the returns at his McHenry Avenue campaign headquarters. He said district voters want job creation, immigration reform and, most importantly, increased water storage.

“You take away our water, you take away our economy, you take away our jobs,” he said.

Reactions varied in Modesto as Donald Trump moved toward certain victory in the presidential election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Brian Clark/bclark@modbee.com)

Denham was seeking a fourth two-year term. It was a rematch of the November 2014 election, when he beat Eggman by 56 percent to 44 percent.

Eggman, a commercial beekeeper and almond grower, was not conceding the 2016 race as of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m humbled by the fantastic support from voters across the district and my fantastic team of volunteers,” he said by email. “As expected, this race is incredibly competitive and too close to call.”

Eggman supporters gathered at the Sandude Brewing Co. taproom in downtown Modesto to watch the returns.

Eggman hammered Denham throughout the campaign for his support of Trump amid the Republican standard-bearer’s many controversies. The Democrat also suggested that Denham has enriched himself while in office, but the incumbent said his plastics business and almond farm are modest operations that provide jobs.

Eggman said he would work to bolster the district’s middle class and deal with problems he sees in agriculture in his travels as a beekeeper.

Denham said he was offended by Trump’s language but preferred him to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. He also said his constituents care more about district issues than presidential politics.

Denham served for eight years in the state Senate, in a district with a large number of Democrats. The GOP trailed by 2.7 percent points in voter registration in the House district.

“This is more of an independent district, where Democrats have supported me, independents have supported me,” Denham said. “It’s about the issues, and there was a very big difference between the two candidates in this case.”

The 10th also has a large number of Latinos, and both candidates have personal ties in this regard. Eggman’s mother is of Mexican descent, and Denham married into a Latino family.

The district had long been rated “lean Republican” by two leading analysts – the Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Both moved it to “toss-up” last month.

John Holland: 209-578-2385

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