WASHINGTON -- Congressman-elect David Valadao wants to keep one foot in the San Joaquin Valley even as he starts climbing up Capitol Hill.
Now amid his orientation as a House freshman, the Hanford Republican said Wednesday that his wife and three children will remain in California while he commutes to his new job next year in the House of Representatives.
"We have no interest in moving my wife back here," Valadao said. "We want to stay close to our family."
Family residency is not the only big choice facing Valadao, a 35-year-old state Assembly member and partner in a family dairy farm. As he prepares for his swearing-in Jan. 3, he's got committees to bid for, staff to hire and some political shoals to navigate.
Valadao is one of at least 67 House freshmen starting to learn the ropes this week, in an orientation program that continues after the Thanksgiving holiday. Veteran lawmakers, too, have decisions to make and careers to enhance during the lame-duck period that follows one election and precedes a new Congress.
On Wednesday, for instance, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, fell short in his effort to win election as House Republican Conference secretary, a rung on the GOP leadership ladder. The post was instead claimed by Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, a 69-year-old sharp-tongued conservative.
And, several hours prior to the Republican leadership election, declaring that "there is so much more I want to do," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco announced her intention to seek another term as party leader.
Pelosi's re-election to her leadership post at the age of 72 is all-but assured in January, though intra-party dissidents including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, voted for other Democrats as a form of protest last time.
"I wouldn't think of walking away," Pelosi said at a news conference.
For the Republicans, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield won reelection as House majority whip. McCarthy's new district swings north, to include eastern Tulare County.
Some California lawmakers could move up to higher-profile committees, or take on new subcommittee leadership positions, with the shift into the 113th Congress; for freshmen, the options are usually narrower.
On Wednesday, Valadao voiced interest in serving on the House agriculture, natural resources and transportation committees; typically, a member only serves on two.
"I've been having conversations about what helps me represent my district," Valadao said.
Though Valadao hasn't yet formally hired his new congressional staff, he indicated that "the direction we're heading in" includes moving his current Assembly chief of staff, Tal Eslick, into the position as congressional chief of staff. Eslick previously served as district director for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia.
Some other potential House newcomers are also joining the orientation sessions even as they await a final count, including Democrat Ami Bera.
Bera leads Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, by 3,824 votes out of 235,628 cast. In an uncomfortable twist, the Committee on House Administration that Lungren chairs is in charge of the freshman orientation session.
No such doubt surrounded Valadao's presence this week, as he soundly defeated Democrat John Hernandez by a 59% to 41% margin. Valadao reported having more than $587,000 in his treasury prior to the election, giving him the post-election advantage of not having to dig his way out from campaign debt.
The newly redrawn 21st Congressional District to be represented by Valadao spans western Fresno County, Tulare County and portions of Kern County.
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