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Jeff Denham Reelected: Local Politics, Water Wave Overtake National Blue Wave Narrative

Created: 07 November, 2018
Updated: 21 November, 2022
1 min read

Democrats and pollsters expecting Josh Harder (D) to surf into Washington on a blue wave in California's 10th Congressional District Tuesday were met with the reality that all politics is local.

Blood is thicker than water, the old saying goes, and in California's Central Valley, water is the community's lifeblood. So said incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham (R) in the days leading up to the election.

There local farmers have come to rely on Denham to fight for their access to scarce irrigated water to keep their businesses alive. Jake Wenger, a fourth generation walnut farmer West of Modesto said:

"There are a lot of key issues here. But without water, what else do we have?"

After the votes were counted, Denham won reelection to the U.S. House 50.6% to 49.4% on what he variously called a "water wave" and a "valley wave" during the campaign.

In the months leading up to the election Denham defied the national narrative that this election would be a referendum on Trump.

At least for his district, he knew it wouldn't:

"Pollsters across the country have it wrong. This isn’t a blue wave or a red wave, it’s a Valley wave," Denham said. "It’s us against those people trying to take our water."

UPDATE: Denham was unseated two days after the polls closed after more vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots (including conditional voter registration provisional ballots), and other ballots were tallied.