Political Notebook

Emilio Huerta drops out of congressional race against David Valadao

Democrat Emilio Huerta has decided not to run against Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, in 2018.
Democrat Emilio Huerta has decided not to run against Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, in 2018. Emilio Huerta for Congress

Emilio Huerta, a Bakersfield attorney and the son of civil rights legend Dolores Huerta, is ending his campaign to replace Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Huerta shared his decision in an op-ed submitted to The Bee, in which he said he would instead focus on helping other Democrats win election to various levels of government office.

At attempt Friday to reach Huerta by phone was not successful.

UPDATE: Update: Reports indicate T.J. Cox will be leaving the California District 10 race to run against David Valadao in District 21.

This would have been Huerta's second try at unseating Valadao. In 2016, Valadao beat Huerta by 13 percentage points in a district that favored former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by nearly 16 points.

Huerta's campaign raised about $100,000 in 2017, while Valadao ended the year with about $1 million on hand.

"Emilio Huerta and his family have made immense contributions to the Central Valley and our country as a whole," said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, the New Mexico congressman who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). "Every hardworking Californian owes them a debt of gratitude for their advocacy on behalf of families, children and our progressive values nationwide."

The DCCC declined to comment on who, if anyone, will be running in Huerta's place.

The Democrats have targeted Valadao's 21st District for years, as the poor, predominantly Latino district leans heavily to the left. As of January, nearly 47 percent of the district's registered voters are Democrats, while just over 28 percent are Republicans.

Despite the clear demographic hurdle, Valadao – a Spanish-speaking dairy farmer and the son of Portuguese immigrants from the Azores Islands – has soundly beaten Democratic challengers in three elections.

David Valadao
Rep. David Valadao Valadao for Congress

In 2014, Amanda Renteria – who recently announced a bid for California governor – brought national money and big names to her attempt to best Valadao, who then beat her by 16 points.

In 2012, Valadao defeated former Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President John Hernandez by more than 15 points.

Valadao has remained popular over the years by sometimes bucking party politics in favor of local issues.

He authored the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017, which would allow water to move more freely among various government agencies in California. The House passed the bill in July, and it's now under consideration in the Senate.

Valadao was also among the first Republicans to support a Democratic effort to pass a DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act in 2017.

The focus now shifts onto who the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will insert into the race before Friday's filing deadline.

Another Valley race for the 10th District, currently held by Turlock Republican Jeff Denham, has about a dozen Democratic challengers, while the race in Rep. Devin Nunes' neighboring district has four. Many of these candidates would have some sort of Valley tie to the 22nd District that may give the eventual challenger a defense against being considered an outsider by voters.