FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2015, file photo, Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., poses during a ceremonial re-enactment of his swearing-in ceremony in the Rayburn Room on Capitol Hill in Washington. Valadao has reclaimed the U.S. House seat he lost in the California farm belt two years ago. FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Republicans have picked up their 11th seat overall in the U.S. House and the third seat in California, as Republican David Valadao reclaimed the seat he lost in the farm belt two years ago.

The former congressman defeated Democratic Rep. TJ Cox, who ousted Valadao in the 21st Congressional District two years ago by 862 votes.

Valadao endorsed President Donald Trump after withholding his backing in 2016 — a risk in a swing district the president lost by 15 points four years ago.

But he also stressed his independence, criticizing the Trump administration for family separations at the border and promoting his willingness to work across party lines.

On paper, the 21st District looks like it should be a Democratic stronghold: The party holds a nearly 17-point registration edge. But California’s agricultural centers have long been known for Republican residents who vote reliably and Democrats who often do not.

Valadao proved tough to beat after he was first elected in 2012, fending off Democratic challengers by focusing on water for agriculture and other local issues.

That changed in 2018, when Democrats captured seven GOP-held House seats in California as voters rejected the Trump agenda. The 21st was among them, though the results weren’t settled until weeks after Election Day.