The two most interesting local congressional races are those in which there is an element of doubt about the outcome.
One is in the 16th District, where farmer and incumbent Jim Costa, D-Fresno, is being challenged for the third time by dairyman Johnny Tacherra, R-Burrel. The other is the 21st District contest pitting dairyman and incumbent David Valadao, R-Hanford, against civil rights attorney Emilio Huerta, D-Bakersfield.
The Bee recommends Costa and Valadao to voters.
National political analysts who study congressional races rate Costa’s seat as “safe” – unlike in 2014 when Costa eked out victory over the underfunded Tacherra, who effectively connected with voters with his grass-roots campaign.
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While we admire Tacherra’s tenacity and passion, he lacks a firm grasp on the most important issues facing San Joaquin Valley residents: water, poverty, education, air pollution, access to medical care, immigration reform and climate change. In the House of Representatives, being a firebrand alone won’t get you far.
In contrast, Costa knows the issues and has the political acumen to guide bills through Congress that will help residents from all walks of life. He is an expert on water, air pollution, immigration reform and veterans affairs. He is a conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat who has allies on both sides of the aisle, and will cross that aisle to vote for Republican legislation that will help the district, Valley and nation.
Tacherra has said on the campaign trail that he would be more effective than Costa because he is a Republican. Such a claim ignores the reality that for a bill addressing California’s dire water situation to become law, it must have the support of our state’s two U.S. senators. For the Valley’s GOP-dominated congressional delegation, Costa is the conduit to the Senate, which is represented by two Democrats – and will be for a long time to come.
Costa is the vastly superior candidate and deserves re-election to the House of Representatives.
While we often disagree with Valadao on issues (his opposition to high-speed rail, for example), he is diligent in tending to the needs of constituents and additionally earns high marks for persistent and methodical efforts to bring more water to the Valley, raise educational attainment and secure funding for improvements at Lemoore Naval Air Station.
It is significant that the California Teachers Association has endorsed Valdao’s re-election. He also has authored vital water legislation that awaits approval in the Senate. His steady hand and negotiating skills are crucial to that bill becoming law.
Contrary to the advertised claims of an independent group supporting Huerta, Valadao doesn’t back controversial GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and, in fact, was among the first Republicans to distance themselves from the businessman.
Huerta’s candidacy has been hurt by a lack of funding, infighting among local Democrats and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and his late entry into the primary. It’s too bad because Huerta is a worthy opponent. His long career fighting for the poor and unrepresented, and his knowledge of the law and the machinations of politics have prepared him well for Congress.
But 21st District voters, despite being Democrats by a substantial margin, twice have demonstrated that they like what Valadao brings to the job. We concur and recommend him to voters for a third term.
There is no suspense in other Valley congressional races because of voter party preference. That said, we recommend House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, in the 23rd District and Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, in the 22nd District for re-election.
McCarthy and Nunes, who chairs the the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, are two of the most powerful Republicans in Congress. They are positioned to help the Valley and have done so throughout their political careers.
In the 4th District, we wish there were a viable alternative to the ineffective Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove. But the reality is that the job is McClintock’s as long as the district is overwhelming populated by ultraconservative Republicans.
Therefore, we make no recommendation in that race, which decides the representative for Mariposa County and portions of Fresno and Madera counties.