He defeated a 3-term Republican incumbent, now TJ Cox sets priorities for 21st Congressional District

Democratic Congressman TJ Cox was sworn in by Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria while his wife, Kathleen Murphy, looks on.
Democratic Congressman TJ Cox was sworn in by Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria while his wife, Kathleen Murphy, looks on.

Two years ago, Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria was in Washington, D.C. when she ran into TJ Cox.

As Soria recalled, Cox tried to recruit her to run for the 21st Congressional District.

“He was trying to convince me to run for Congress for that seat,” said Soria.

She passed up on the suggestion.

Saturday morning, Soria conducted the community swearing-in ceremony for Cox, a Democrat from Fresno who edged three-term Republican incumbent David Valadao by less than 800 votes in one of the last mid-term Congressional races to be decided.

“How interesting it is that two years later I get the honor to swear him in,” said Soria, one of about two dozen elected officials from the area who showed up on a rainy morning for the event.

Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria called Congressman TJ Cox, D-Fresno, “the right voice for the Valley for today.” Vida en el Valle file

“This room looks awesome in terms of it reflects the diversity of our country, of our region and our cities,” she said. “What really strikes me is that when all the elected officials were being introduced is that our communities have come a long way.”

Among those in attendance were Congressman Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and, Assemblymember Joaquín Arámbula, D-Fresno.

“TJ Cox is the right voice for the Valley for today,” Soria told more than 250 people who crowded into the Selma Arts Center for the ceremony. “He will be a champion for health care access. He will be a champion for immigrant families.

“He is going to protect our immigrant community,” she added. “TJ is one of us. He knows the issues.”

The 21st Congressional District, which stretches from southern edges of the City of Fresno down south to Arvin, is 71 percent Latino and ranks among the poorest regions in the country.

Cox, a 55-year-old engineer, said he fits in with the immigrant fabric of the district.

“Like so many of you, my parents were immigrants. They became proud of becoming citizens,” said Cox of his father who came from China and his mother who migrated from the Philippines.

Democratic Congressman TJ Cox spoke to a crowd of more than 250 after his community swearing-in ceremony. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

Cox, part of a blue wave that swept Democrats into the majority in the House, said district residents were ready for a change in direction.

“We knew there was something definitely wrong with America, with a president that had no respect or consideration for our immigrant population who are our friends and family and neighbors,” said Cox, who has been named to the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Agriculture.

Cox said the area does not get its fair share of federal dollars. Those funds, he added, are needed for community health centers, clean energy plants and social services.

“Those are things that we need to be successful in the future,” said Cox, who was accompanied by his wife, Dr. Kathleen Murphy, and their children.

Cox did remind the audience of what the Democratic takeover of the House has done.

He showed up to the House gym for a spin class led by a senator on a recent Thursday when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, showed up.

“Oh shoot. I thought today was Wednesday,” Cox recalled McCarthy saying.

“Kevin, now that you’re in the minority, every day is Wednesday,” a fellow Democrat quipped.

Cox – who was officially sworn into office last month in Washington, D.C. – plans to open a district office soon in Selma. He has a district office in Bakersfield.