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Election results: LaMalfa defeats Denney in California's 1st Congressional District race

Matt Brannon
Redding Record Searchlight

Update, 9:45 a.m. Thursday:

Rep. Doug LaMalfa will return to the U.S. House of Representatives for a fifth term representing California's 1st Congressional District, the Associated Press reported

What started as a narrow LaMalfa lead in reported results Tuesday continued to grow throughout Election Night. The most recent unofficial numbers from the California Secretary of State show LaMalfa up, 55.5% to 44.5%, over Democratic challenger Audrey Denney with about 30,000 votes making up the difference. 

Doug LaMalfa

It took until Wednesday afternoon for the AP to deem the race a win for the Republican from Richvale. In 2018, the same race was called by 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Denney ran for LaMalfa's seat a first time in 2018, when she lost by about 10%. 

In a Thursday morning Facebook post, Denney acknowledged her path to victory was "fading out."

"We will continue to watch every important vote be counted but do not anticipate any further statements unless a path forward re-emerges," she wrote in the post. 

The previous day, she said she was waiting to see how remaining vote tallies played out, pointing to uncounted ballots in Nevada County. 

Meanwhile, LaMalfa's campaign held a small victory party Tuesday night (which his campaign said was COVID-19 complaint) at the DoubleTree hotel in Chico with state Assemblyman James Gallagher. 

"On our way to another great win!" LaMalfa's campaign posted Tuesday around 10:30 p.m.

LaMalfa's lead grew from about 5% when officials began reporting results to about 10% after midnight. His chief of staff, Mark Spannagel, said that increase in LaMalfa's lead was expected as the Election Day vote seemed to be more favorable for Republicans compared to the early vote. 

In an interview, LaMalfa said he was extremely grateful for the support the North State has shown him. 

Denney's campaign had been optimistic about early results. She said in an interview two hours after polls closed  that she was on the right trajectory to "pull this thing off." But the second-time challenger fell further behind as more votes came in.

Audrey Denney

Around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, she posted a video telling supporters that the race had not been called and there were still a lot of votes left to count.  

The Secretary of State's office says the election results are unofficial because the results will change during the canvass period as vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots and other ballots are tallied.

The state will certify the results by Dec. 11, 2020. 

Elections forecasters had expected LaMalfa to hold his seat again in 2020. The Cook Political Report rated the race as "solid Republican." Forecasters at the University of Virginia's "Crystal Ball" changed the seat's rating from safe Republican to likely Republican on Oct. 20. 

The 1st District has an estimated population of 711,905. The district encompasses all of Shasta, Butte, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama counties, as well as portions of Nevada, Glenn and Placer counties.

As a whole, forecasters expect Democrats to hold their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Update, 11:45 p.m.

With nearly 90% of precincts partially reporting, LaMalfa's lead has grown to about 7.4% of the vote over Denney. LaMalfa posted on Facebook that he's on the way to another win. But the Democrat from Chico hasn't given up on her chances. 

"This race has not been called yet," Denney said in a video posted to social media around 11:30 p.m. "There are a lot of votes yet to count."

Denney told supporters she's going to bed "proud, content and grateful" and will update them in the morning after more results come in. 

Update, 10:15 p.m.

With 73% of precincts partially reporting results, both candidates say they feel good about their prospects. LaMalfa currently leads with 52.5% of the vote to 47.5%.

Denney said she doesn't expect to know who the winner is tonight, but hopes to later in the week. She said her campaign is on "exactly the trajectory we need to be on to pull this thing off." 

About 230,000 votes have been tallied thus far, and Denney said her team expects the total to rise to 300,000 to 330,000 votes. 

"My team is definitely frantically refreshing web browsers (for results), and I'm just enjoying a quiet night with my immediate family," Denney said. "I'm pleased with what we’ve accomplished."

LaMalfa's team isn't declaring victory yet, but he says things are looking good. 

"We're still waiting on numbers for some of the counties and we just have to sit tight," he said Tuesday night. "I think we have a good foundation that will keep building more." 

Asked about how the race has fared compared to his expectations, LaMalfa said he knew it was going to be strange and that candidates would have to be patient. 

Spannagel said there's "essentially no Democrat votes left to count." 

Update, 8:50 p.m.

With 67% of precincts partially reporting results in the district, LaMalfa holds a slim lead over Denney, 52.3% to 47.7%. Lassen, Modoc, Butte and Sierra counties have yet to report any results. 

Mark Spannagel, LaMalfa's chief of staff, said the results so far are "about what we expect." He said Democrats made up more of the early vote while he said the Election Day vote is heavily Republican. 

"It gets better from here," Spannagel said.

Brian Solecki, campaign manager for Denney, said the numbers he's seeing make the race out to be closer than the publicly available figures. He said it's a good start and the campaign is happy to see improvement in many counties. 

"Things are looking great," Solecki said.

Update, 8:20 p.m.

In the first batch of results, LaMalfa led 56.5% to 43.5% for Denney with 12.5% of precincts partially reporting. The only votes so far have come from the following counties: Glenn, Placer and Plumas. 

Original story:

In this race for a seat in U.S. Congress, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, is trying to win a fifth consecutive term representing the North State. His competition is Audrey Denney, a Democrat from Chico who lost to him by about 10% of the vote in 2018 in the state's conservative 1st District (160,046 votes to 131,548). 

While forecasts favor LaMalfa, Denney has nearly doubled his campaign fundraising total this cycle. Denney has pulled in about $2.1 million compared to $1.1 million for LaMalfa. 

Two candidates are running for the job in California's Congressional District 1: Democratic challenger Audrey Denney faces Republican incumbent Doug LaMalfa.

LaMalfa has received large donations from players in the agriculture industry, like American Crystal Sugar Company PAC, while Denney has gotten her largest donations from unions, like the Machinists Non-Partisan Political League. Readers can find out more about the candidates' donors at this link.

More:Election 2020: 3 questions for Audrey Denney, Doug LaMalfa in North State congressional race

The 1st District has an estimated population of 711,905. The district encompasses all of Shasta, Butte, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama counties, as well as portions of Nevada, Glenn and Placer counties.

Audrey Denney, Doug LaMalfa on COVID

On issues, both candidates have been talking about the economic situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Denney has criticized LaMalfa for not voting for more stimulus money, while LaMalfa says he has voted for some packages but not bills he considers partisan. 

The virus has also impacted the practicalities of campaigning. Candidates could spend more time doing in-person events in 2018. This cycle, Denney said she had only left Chico a handful of times in the campaign. 

More:How clear is Doug LaMalfa's path to reelection in Northern California?

Matt Brannon covers politics, the criminal justice system and breaking news for the Record Searchlight. Follow him on Twitter @MattBrannon_RS. Support local coverage and keep up with the North State for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today