Local Election

Nunes comfortably beats Janz in high-profile congressional race

Andrew Janz election night speech in Fresno

Andrew Janz delivers his election night speech in Fresno to supporters after early returns favor another win for incumbent Rep. Devin Nunes.
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Andrew Janz delivers his election night speech in Fresno to supporters after early returns favor another win for incumbent Rep. Devin Nunes.

Rep. Devin Nunes defeated Democratic challenger Andrew Janz in the Valley’s premier race in the 2018 general election.

With all precincts reporting, Nunes totaled 75,111 votes to Janz’s 59,528 (56 percent to 44 percent).

Janz’s election night party, held at The Falls Event Center in northwest Fresno, was packed to capacity Tuesday night. Despite the challenger’s deficit, loud music continued to thump as 400 people ate tacos, drank and continued to chat as election numbers rolled in.

“It’s the highest spirit of any election party in which the candidate is down 13 points,” Janz campaign manager Heather Greven said.

Janz was with his family in a private area away from the main party around 10 p.m., Greven said. She said he was doing well considering the circumstances.

nunes janz_2
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, left, defeated Democratic challenger Andrew Janz, 56 percent to 44 percent. Fresno Bee file

Later, Janz gave his concession speech. “I think that one of the most important takeaways of tonight is the fact that Devin Nunes is no longer going to be the House Intelligence Committee chairman,” he told to loud cheers.

“Democracy only works when we have viable candidates running against each other, when we pit two ideas against one another,” Janz continued.. “We need to make sure we hold elected officials accountable. This is what this campaign is about.”

And perhaps he signaled future intentions when he concluded: “We need to lay the groundwork for a new administration in 2020, and that fight begins here and now.”

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Greven said 19 months of hard campaigning put not only Nunes, but other Valley politicians on notice.

“We knocked on 25,000 doors in 48 hours,” she said. “This district has never seen a real campaign. These people are activated. They will be watching your votes. They want town halls.”

“And Andrew Janz did that,” Greven added.

As Janz shook hands and hugged supporter around 10:30 p.m., Bob Dylan’s “The Times They a-Changin’” began to play. “We left it all on the field with this campaign,” Janz said.

Nunes celebrates in Hanford

Social media videos showed Nunes address his election night party at St. John’s Hall in Hanford.

“It’s a great night to celebrate victory,” Nunes said. “Here in the Valley, we continue to hold our own. We continue to make progress.”

Janz and Nunes battled under a national spotlight, as the House Intelligence Chairman energized his base and emerged as a key villain for Democrats through a year of polarizing moves.

Nunes weaved in and out of key leadership roles on several high-profile investigations, including the House’s inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He hyped and then produced a memo on that investigation, all the while cementing himself as one of President Donald Trump’s key allies in Congress.

Janz capitalized, mounting a campaign that combined grassroots day-to-day effort with unprecedented national support for a challenger in the district. The 34-year-old first-time candidate has raised a staggering $7 million-plus and grown into a media darling – mostly as a foil to the latest Nunes exploits.

The contest is without question Nunes’ toughest challenge since winning election in 2002. That year, Nunes edged out former Fresno mayor and current Assemblyman Jim Patterson by just four percentage points in the primary before easily securing the newly created and Republican- leaning 22nd District seat.

Nunes’ toughest general-election challenge to date, Otto Lee, received just 38 percent of the vote in 2012.

According to the latest state numbers, the district is 40 percent Republican and 32 percent Democrat.

Janz jumped into the race early and worked to establish himself as the longtime incumbent’s antithesis.

While Nunes waged open war with the media, Janz offered near total access to national, regional and local news reporters.

EPZELEX_FRS_PHOTOS05.JPG
Kay Davies, right, consoles Andrew Janz as he walks out of the election night gathering Tuesday night, Nov. 6, 2018 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

Janz campaigned in living rooms, high school cafeterias and rodeo parades. Nunes has not held an open town hall meeting since 2010, holding only a few heavily secured, pricey fundraisers in the district over the last year.

Big-money contest

But both raised money – a lot of money.

Nunes outdid Janz’s $7 million-plus with more than $10 million raised, making the contest perhaps the richest House race in the country.

The two candidates have thrown millions of dollars at one another in campaign mailers and TV ads alone. Nunes also has thrown six-figure sums at collateral targets, including the state’s gas tax and The Fresno Bee.

Janz has attempted to call out Nunes’ absence from the district as a lapse in his duties, while Nunes has claimed credit for a Republican victory in tax reform.

The two candidates have not yet met, as Nunes declined or simply ignored any outside attempts to organize forums or debates.

The House will flip to Democratic control, meaning Nunes will soon lose his House Intelligence Committee chairmanship. Whether the Democrats on the committee, who Nunes has routinely silenced during the Russian investigations, will look to strike back remains to be seen.

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Rory Appleton: 559-441-6015, @RoryDoesPhonics
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