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California's 21st Congressional District elections, 2012

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California's 21st Congressional District

General Election Date
November 6, 2012

Primary Date
June 5, 2012

November 6 Election Winner:
David Valadao Republican Party
Incumbent prior to election:
Devin Nunes Republican Party
Devin Nunes.jpg

California U.S. House Elections
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2012 U.S. Senate Elections

Flag of California.png
The 21st Congressional District of California held an election for the U.S. House of Representatives on November 6, 2012.

David Valadao (R) won the election.[1]

This is the 21st Congressional District prior to the 2010 redistricting.
Candidate Filing Deadline Primary Election General Election
March 9, 2012
June 5, 2012
November 6, 2012

Primary: California has a top-two primary system, in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, go on to the general election.

Voter registration: Voters had to register to vote in the primary by May 21. For the general election, the voter registration deadline was October 22.[2]

See also: California elections, 2012

Incumbent: Heading into the election the incumbent was Devin Nunes (R), who was first elected in 2002.

According to a Cook Political Report analysis, the 21st District was 1 of 13 congressional districts in California that was at least somewhat competitive in 2012. The analysis rated it as Leans Republican.[3]

This was the first election which used new district maps based on 2010 Census data. California's 21st Congressional District is located in the south-central portion of the state and includes Kings County and parts of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties.[4]

Blanket primary

This was the first election year in which California's Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act was in effect. Because of this, all candidates for a seat competed in one blanket primary. The two candidates who received the most votes then advanced to the general election on November 6.

The proposition's intent was to encourage primary competition, which backers of the act said would lead to more moderate legislators being elected. Despite this intention, only a few centrists successfully advanced to the general election. The primary results did reflect an increase in competition, with California's percentage of contested primaries being much higher than the nationwide average.[5]

However, the increase in competition also led to an increase in campaign spending, due to the fact that competition within political parties lasted for the entire year rather than ending after the primary. Experts predict that this will only increase the power of the special interest groups that fund the campaigns.[5]

Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., said the following, "It's hard to argue it's a better system where the incumbent congressman has a huge war chest and nobody else has any money... At least now we can make him spend it."[5]

As a result of the blanket primary, nine congressional districts had same-party candidates battling in the November 6 general election. Of those, seven were between Democrats.[6]

There were also over a dozen same-party races in the state legislature in November.[6]


General election candidates

Democratic Party John Hernandez
Republican Party David Valadao Green check mark transparent.png

June 5, 2012, primary results

Note: The following candidate withdrew prior to the primary: Michael Rubio[9]

Election results

General election

U.S. House, California District 21 General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngDavid G. Valadao 57.8% 67,164
     Democratic John Hernandez 42.2% 49,119
Total Votes 116,283
Source: California Secretary of State "Official Election Results, 2012 General Election"

Race background

California's 21st was considered to be Leaning Republican according to the New York Times race ratings. Incumbent David Valadao was challenged by Democrat John Hernandez. The Democrat who was considered to be the strongest opposition, Michael Rubio, dropped out of the race prior to the primary. Valadao had a major fund-raising advantage in the race.[10]

Republican challenger David Valadao was included in the National Republican Congressional Committee's Young Guns program. The program highlighted challengers who represented the GOP's best chances to pick up congressional seats in the general election.[11]

Impact of redistricting

See also: Redistricting in California

The 21st District was re-drawn after the 2010 Census. The new district is composed of the following percentages of voters of the old congressional districts.[12][13]

Registration statistics

As of October 23, 2012, District 21 had the following partisan registration breakdown according to the California Secretary of State:

California Congressional District 21[14]
Congressional District District Total Democrats Republicans Other & Unaffiliated Advantage Party Advantage Change in Advantage from 2010
District 21 197,570 91,715 65,384 40,471 Democratic 40.27% 77.79%
"Party advantage" is the percentage gap between the two major parties in registered voters. "Change in advantage" is the spread in difference of party advantage between 2010 and 2012 based on the congressional district number only.

District partisanship

FairVote's Monopoly Politics 2012 study

See also: FairVote's Monopoly Politics 2012

In 2012, FairVote did a study on partisanship in the congressional districts, giving each a percentage ranking (D/R) based on the new 2012 maps and comparing that to the old 2010 maps. Partisanship figures from 2010 relating to the incumbent are unavailable for this district due to the seat being open.[15]

  • 2012: 50D / 50R
  • 2010: Unavailable

Cook Political Report's PVI

See also: Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index

In 2012, Cook Political Report released its updated figures on the Partisan Voter Index, which measures each congressional district's partisanship relative to the rest of the country. California's 21st Congressional District has a PVI of R+3, which is the 203rd most Republican district in the country. In 2008, this district was won by Barack Obama (D), 53-47 percent over John McCain (R). In 2004, George W. Bush (R) won the district 57-43 percent over John Kerry (D).[16]

Campaign contributions

Candidates for Congress were required to file up to seven main reports with the Federal Election Commission during the 2012 elections season. Below are candidate reports.

John Hernandez

John Hernandez (2012) Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
April Quarterly[17]April 16, 2012$10,092.16$30,171.14$(16,818.80)$23,444.50
Pre-Primary[18]May 24, 2012$2,499.83$2,218$(12,571.95)$-7,854.12
Running totals

David Valadao

David Valadao (2012) Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
April Quarterly[19]April 13, 2012$386,579.34$162,981.92$(54,637.35)$494,923.91
Pre-Primary[20]May 24, 2012$494,923.91$73,765.22$(78,142.28)$490,546.85
Running totals

District history

Candidate ballot access
Ballot Access Requirements Final.jpg

Find detailed information on ballot access requirements in all 50 states and Washington D.C.


On November 2, 2010, Devin Nunes won re-election to the United States House. He won unopposed in the general election.[21]

U.S. House, California District 21 General Election, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngDevin Nunes Incumbent 100% 135,979
Total Votes 135,979

See also


  1. CNN, "California Districts Race - 2012 Election Center," accessed December 1, 2012
  2. California Secretary of State, "Elections FAQ," accessed July 20, 2012
  3. The Cook Political Report, "2012 Competitive House Race Chart," accessed July 10, 2012
  4. California Redistricting Map, "Map" accessed September 25, 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Los Angeles Times, "Few centrists advance in California's new primary system," June 7, 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 Reuters, "Democrats face Democrats in new California election system," June 6, 2012
  7. Bakersfield Californian "Democrat jumps into congressional race," January 23, 2012
  8. "Valadao says he’s running for Congress",, August 2, 2011
  9. Bakersfield Californian "Rubio won't run for U.S. Congress in 2012," December 28, 2011
  10. New York Times, "House Race Ratings," accessed August 7, 2012
  11. NRCC "Young Guns 2012"
  12. Moonshadow Mobile's CensusViewer, "California's congressional districts 2001-2011 comparison"
  13. Labels & Lists, "VoterMapping software voter counts"
  14. California Secretary of State, "Congressional Voter Registration Statistics," May 21, 2012
  15. "2011 Redistricting and 2012 Elections in Arizona," September 2012
  16. Cook Political Report, "Partisan Voting Index Districts of the 113th Congress: 2004 & 2008" accessed October 2012
  17. Federal Election Commission, "John Hernandez April Quarterly," accessed July 10, 2012
  18. Federal Election Commission, "John Hernandez Pre-Primary," accessed July 10, 2012
  19. Federal Election Commission, "David Valadao April Quarterly," accessed July 10, 2012
  20. Federal Election Commission, "David Valadao Pre-Primary," accessed July 10, 2012
  21. U.S. Congress House Clerk, "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 2, 2010," accessed March 28, 2013