Rep. Jerry McNerney held onto his seat despite a strong challenge from Republican Ricky Gill of Lodi, returns showed early Wednesday morning.

Returns showed McNerney, D-Stockton, leading Gill by about 8 percentage points.

McNerney shortly before 1 a.m. said he was pleased that voters had chosen his "experience and proven performance."

"We're going to try to do the best we can to make a difference in people's lives," he said, adding that Gill had "called to concede, he was very gracious and offered his help and I certainly appreciated that."

Gill issued a statement at about 1:30 a.m. saying he had offered "to act as a resource and to help him (McNerney) serve this community in any manner possible." He said he was "enormously proud of the campaign we ran" and humbled by his supporters' hard work.

"We put this community and its people first, and we took our story to the national stage," Gill said, encouraging the district's residents to "come together and work towards the bipartisan, lasting reofrms this country so badly needs."

McNerney had called Gill a novice propped up by his parents' business ties. Gill turned 25 -- Congress' constitutional minimum age -- in May, five days before graduating from law school. He has yet to take the California State Bar exam, so he can't practice law. And, he has not held a full-time job other than being a partner in his parents' farming and RV park businesses, where his duties have been unclear.

But redistricting made McNerney, 61, something of an outsider: He moved from Pleasanton to Stockton this year to live within the new lines. Gill, a Lodi native, called him a liberal Bay Area carpetbagger whose experience isn't worth a plugged nickel and left the region with a stagnant economy, ongoing water problems for agriculture, high gas prices, soaring health care costs and a share of the nation's debt.

Gill proved to be an effective fundraiser, backed in part by Central Valley business interests and national GOP benefactors.

Democrats hold a 10-percentage-point edge in voter registration over Republicans in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District, which includes much of San Joaquin County; Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley and Discovery Bay in Contra Costa County; and a tiny slice of Sacramento County. But those Democrats tend to be more conservative than those in McNerney's old district, which had reached into Alameda County.

Josh Richman covers politics. Contact him at 510-208-6428. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.