Democratic Rep. Ami Bera clinched a third term Friday after surviving a bruising challenge from Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
Jones conceded the race Friday afternoon after Sacramento County reported that nearly 20,000 more votes had been tallied and Bera increased his lead over Jones to 6,008 votes, 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent. Election officials across the state continue to process mail-in ballots that were turned in on Election Day or received by mail in the days following Nov. 8.
The Elk Grove physician’s triumph ties him with the late Democratic Rep. Dalip Singh Saund, who represented the Riverside area from 1957 to 1963, for the most number of House re-elections by an Indian American.
“It’s been my honor to serve this community first as a doctor and for these past four years as a member of Congress,” Bera said in a statement. “After months of a divisive national election, our job now is to bring our country back together.”
Bera will return to Washington, D.C., following a cycle in which Democrats failed to reverse their minorities in the House of Representatives or the Senate and lost control of the White House, putting the party in an extreme defensive position. In his statement, Bera said he would focus on “standing up for women’s access to health care, protecting Medicare and Social Security, and ensuring all of our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned.”
His victory caps another tumultuous election in the purple district encompassing suburban Sacramento, where Republicans this year saw one of their best opportunities to knock off a Democratic incumbent who beat his opponent by just 1,455 votes in 2014.
“Although there were difficult aspects of the race, I do not regret running and am extremely proud of the campaign that we ran,” Jones said in a statement. “Above all else, thank you to my family who endured the race with exceptional grace and support.”
It was a nasty and personal affair, with both candidates connected to scandal throughout the campaign and more than $9 million in outside spending pouring into what became one of the most expensive congressional races in the country.
In May, Bera’s father was charged with two felony counts of election fraud involving the finances of his son’s campaign committee for elections in 2010 and 2012. Babulal Bera, 84, a retired chemical engineer, was sentenced three months later to one year in federal prison and fined $100,000. He was to report Friday.
Though federal officials stressed that their nearly 18-month probe turned up no evidence that Ami Bera knew of his father’s illegal activity, Jones and the Republican Party continued to challenge the congressman over his stated lack of knowledge.
Bera, meantime, savaged Jones over sworn allegations in court filings by a sheriff’s deputy that he made unwanted advances toward her between 2003 and 2005. Tosca Olives, 26 at the time, claimed about 30 inappropriate encounters, including several mutual kisses.
Though Jones denied any romantic or sexual interest in Olives and said he “never had any physical contact with her of an intimate nature,” except when she kissed him, the allegations were featured prominently in Bera’s TV ads.
Bera also repeatedly slammed Jones over his pledge to vote for President-elect Donald Trump, which cost Jones a key crossover labor endorsement. Jones weathered the criticism for months but eventually abandoned his support after a video surfaced of Trump making vulgar comments about women.
Democratic challengers put Republican incumbents across California on the defensive this election over their associations with Trump, though all were able to retain their threatened seats. Only veteran Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose ended up losing, to fellow Democrat Ro Khanna.