Local Election

Janz to face Nunes in high-profile Congressional race

Andrew Janz at headquarters on election day

Andrew Janz and staff making calls from campaign headquarters on election day
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Andrew Janz and staff making calls from campaign headquarters on election day

Andrew Janz, a Democratic newcomer who gained national exposure in his bid to unseat controversial Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, comfortably bested four other challengers in the 22nd Congressional District to earn a spot on the November ballot.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting in the 2018 California primary election, Nunes received 58 percent of the vote to Janz's 32 percent .

Source: California Secretary of State's Office

Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will almost certainly face Janz on Nov. 6 for control of the 22nd, which includes Clovis, Tulare, Visalia, northeast Fresno and parts of Tulare and Fresno counties. The Nunes campaign declined to comment for this story.

Six candidates were on the ballot: Nunes; Janz and fellow Democrats Ricardo Franco and Bobby Bliatout; Libertarian Billy Merryman; and nonpartisan Brian Carroll.

Bliatout was in third with 4.6 percent, followed by Franco (3.3 percent), Carroll (1.3 percent) and Merryman (0.9 percent).

Bee columnist Marek Warszawski and editorial page editor Tad Weber analyze the results and what they mean to the upcoming general election in November.

The top two candidates in California congressional races, regardless of party, move on to the November general election.

Around 100 of Janz's volunteers, family members and supporters gathered at The Falls Event Center late Tuesday to watch the returns and celebrate more than a year of hard campaigning.

Janz told the story of his 89-year-old paternal grandfather, who was in the audience, and his mother – both of whom are immigrants – as he challenged what he summarized as a divisive immigration rhetoric coming from Republicans.

He recognized several of his millennial volunteers while also asking them to get their friends to vote. Janz, 34, is counting on young voters. Early returns on Monday indicated that only about 10 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds had submitted their absentee ballots.

Nunes outperformed Janz by quite a bit in Tulare County, where the eight-term congressman maintains a strong base. It seems likely Janz will have to make up ground in Fresno County, which leans a little further to the left politically.

Ryan Wullschleger, the South Valley organizer for Janz's campaign, said his team will work to appeal to independent and young Republican voters who may not yet have the fierce party loyalty many older Republicans in the area seem to have.

Wullschleger has worked on previous Democratic attempts to dislodge Nunes, including Otto Lee's failed 2014 attempt. He noted that unlike Lee, Janz's campaign has managed to pull in some Republican support.

He believes hammering Nunes on water and local issues will be more effective in turning potential Republicans than focusing on the more national topics that have led to the rise in both Nunes' and Janz's profiles: Russia, Trump and the Department of Justice.

Nunes thrust himself into the national spotlight in 2017 after a series of controversial acts, including a late-night trip to the White House to share information gleaned by the House Intelligence Committee with President Donald Trump. He is perhaps Trump's biggest ally in Congress and served on the president's transition team.

Critics have piled on Nunes over his involvement in a House investigation into whether Russia tampered with the 2016 general election – an investigation now handled by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Two other local congressional races, California's 16th and 21st districts, featured only two candidates, meaning each candidate advanced regardless of vote totals.

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, of the 21st was ahead of Democratic challenger TJ Cox by about 28 percentage points with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

In 2016, the 21st District favored Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Trump by nearly 16 points, but Valadao has comfortably beaten challengers in each of his three previous campaigns despite the demographic disadvantage.

Cox moved from the crowded race for Turlock Republican Jeff Denham's 10th District into the 21st after Valadao's 2016 challenger, Emilio Huerta, dropped out in March.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, collected 53 percent of the election night vote to 47 percent for Republican newcomer Elizabeth Heng in the 16th. The district leans Democratic, but Costa has had a few close calls in midterm elections due to poor Democratic voter turnout.

Tuesday's results will not be official until certified by county clerks and the California Secretary of State. Mail ballots postmarked on Tuesday will also be counted, provided they are received by Friday.

Rory Appleton: 559-441-6015, @RoryDoesPhonics

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