Congressman TJ Cox pulled off one of the biggest upsets in this last mid-term election. Many pundits called the race in favor of the incumbent, David Valadao.
But 22 days after election night, Cox declared victory.
He has just completed his first 100 days in office, and we paid a visit to the freshman congressman in Washington D.C. to see how he’s settling in.
It’s taken a few weeks for Cox to settle into his new digs on Capitol Hill, but his office wasn’t too hard to find.
“It was actually Valadao’s old office, so it was very easy to walk right in,” Cox remembers.
The last congressional race in the country turned out to be the punctuation of the so-called blue wave. And while the transition of power went smoothly with Valadao, his first meeting on Capitol Hill as chair for the house natural resources committee was short lived, only lasting 12 minutes.
“I don’t want to say ‘once bit and twice shy,’ but now we know where the other side is really coming from, more about politics than policy. I’m here for policy to make the difference in the lives for the people we serve, not to play political games,” Cox says.
His first 100 days in and the 21st district congressman has the political lingo down. The former engineer’s passion is climate change, convincing his colleagues of it on the other side of the aisle is something he may never be able to accomplish, but he does use a vital resource in his office that could bring some clarity to the hot button issue.
“It’s a solar to hydrogen proposal some 44 years ago,” Cox explains.
A pamphlet on how to obtain renewable energy. It was authored by Cox’s father, a top chemical engineer at the University of New Mexico.
His father’s work inspires him to fight for natural resources, something his family has talked about at the dinner table for decades.
“I’m one of the very few freshman to ever chairman a subcommittee, a committee for natural resources and can deliver water for our farms, ranches and communities,” Cox explains.
The congressman has also had to overcome some questions over his lack of disclosing all of his financial dealings during the campaign, including an audit from the city of Fresno that was not illegal but did cite sloppy records were kept for Granite Park.
Cox says he’s now divested from the project.
“It was 20-acres of weeds, it was a public nuisance, it was a homeless encampment. Terence came along with assistance from me and created this public recreation facility at no risk to the city, no cost to the city and is being used by thousands of people everyday. I just wish they said ‘thank you for what you’ve done to make this available to the city.'”
Through it all, the congressman admits he’s still learning the ropes. And the long hours and time away from his four kids and wife is something he has to get use to.
He’s finding a way to enjoy the finer things about this new gig, he admits.
“The nicest thing about being on the 7th floor, is hop out the bathroom window and go on the tour of the Capitol, it’s fabulous, right out of the bathroom door, right out of the bathroom door,” he says as he overlooks the Capitol Building.