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Essential Washington

Follow our coverage of the midterm elections here.

Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington. Our coverage of California politics is here. Follow us on Twitter and sign up for the free politics newsletter

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  • Midterm Election
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), left, remains ahead of Democratic challenger T.J. Cox in updated vote tallies.
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), left, remains ahead of Democratic challenger T.J. Cox in updated vote tallies. (Associated Press)

The election-night lead that GOP Rep. David Valadao of Hanford established over his Democratic challenger T.J. Cox has shrunk to 968 votes, stoking Republican fears that the party could lose a seventh California congressional seat.

The alarming news for the GOP came Monday as Kern and Tulare counties released updated results from their ongoing ballot counting.

On election night, when Valadao had a 4,389-vote lead, the Associated Press projected the Republican incumbent would win, but that victory now appears uncertain.

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  • Congress
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Sixteen House Democrats said Monday that they will vote to deny Rep. Nancy Pelosi another stint as House speaker, a show of defiance that puts her opponents on the cusp of forcing a seismic leadership shake-up as their party prepares to take the majority.

Their pledge to oppose Pelosi (D-San Francisco), both in an internal caucus election and a Jan. 3 floor vote, delivered in a letter sent to Democratic colleagues, comes as Pelosi has marshaled a legion of supporters on and off Capitol Hill to make her case.

But her opponents said Monday they are convinced it is time to select a new leader.

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Acting U.S. Atty. Gen. Matthew Whitaker
Acting U.S. Atty. Gen. Matthew Whitaker (Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

Three Senate Democrats filed a lawsuit Monday arguing that Acting Atty. Gen. Matthew Whitaker's appointment is unconstitutional and asking a federal judge to remove him.

The suit, filed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, argues that Whitaker's appointment violates the Constitution because he has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Whitaker was chief of staff to Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and was elevated to the top job after Sessions was ousted by President Trump on Nov. 7.

  • Congress
Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott speaks with his wife, Ann, by his side at an election watch party in Naples, Fla., on Nov. 7.
Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott speaks with his wife, Ann, by his side at an election watch party in Naples, Fla., on Nov. 7. (Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott says incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson called him to concede defeat in their extremely tight race.

Scott issued a statement Sunday saying Nelson "graciously conceded" their Senate race shortly after the state's recount ended. The final results show Scott defeated Nelson by just over 10,000 votes out of 8 million cast. Nelson is scheduled to release a videotaped statement later Sunday.

The defeat ends Nelson's lengthy political career. The three-term incumbent was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. Before that he served six terms in the U.S. House and as state treasurer and insurance commissioner for six years.

Gil Cisneros defeated Republican Young Kim on Saturday in the last of Orange County’s undecided House races, giving Democrats a clean sweep of the state’s six most fiercely fought congressional contests and marking an epochal shift in a region long synonymous with political conservatism.

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For a party in freefall the last two decades, California Republicans learned that it's possible to plunge even further.

Democratic Rep.-elect Katie Porter is congratulated by volunteers at her campaign headquarters in Irvine.
Democratic Rep.-elect Katie Porter is congratulated by volunteers at her campaign headquarters in Irvine. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Congresswoman-elect Katie Porter said she plans to support Rep. Nancy Pelosi's bid for speaker of the House and will make campaign finance reform her top priority when she enters the chamber in January.

“I'm going to continue to have conversations, but so far I feel like Leader Pelosi is definitely making the things that were a priority to the families that elected me her priorities, including announcing her support for campaign finance reform and anti-corruption as HR1," Porter said in her first public appearance since being declared the winner in California’s 45th Congressional District on Thursday evening. 

“It means a lot to me that she is a Californian. She understands our state,” Porter added. “When we talk about environmental protections, this is a person who understands as a Californian how fragile our environment is and what's at risk in things like drilling off our coasts."

President Trump and Acting Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler
President Trump and Acting Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA / Shutterstock)

President Trump says he will name the Environmental Protection Agency's acting head, Andrew Wheeler, to the post permanently.

Trump made the announcement almost in passing Friday at a White House ceremony for Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees.

The president singled out Wheeler in the audience at the ceremony, adding Wheeler "is going to be made permanent" at EPA.

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Employees look through damaged ballots during a recount Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Employees look through damaged ballots during a recount Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

Florida’s acrimonious battle for the U.S. Senate headed Thursday to a legally required hand recount after an initial review by ballot-counting machines showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson separated by less than 13,000 votes.

But the highly watched contest for governor between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum appeared to be over, with a machine recount showing DeSantis with a large enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount in that race.

Gillum, who conceded the contest on election night only to retract his concession later, said in a statement that “it is not over until every legally casted vote is counted.”

Congressional candidate Gil Cisneros
Congressional candidate Gil Cisneros (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Democrat Gil Cisneros pulled ahead of Republican Young Kim in one of California’s undecided congressional races Thursday, an ominous sign for a GOP already reeling from its loss of four House seats in the state.

In updated vote counts released by the registrars for Orange and San Bernardino counties, Kim fell 941 votes behind Cisneros in the contest to succeed Republican Rep. Ed Royce in California’s 39th Congressional District. The 39th straddles Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

In another unresolved House race, Democrat Katie Porter pulled further ahead of Republican incumbent Mimi Walters in the 45th District, which includes Mission Viejo, Tustin, Irvine, Rancho Santa Margarita and Laguna Hills.