Political Notebook

'Three billboards outside Fresno' say Nunes cares more about DC than the Valley

Rep. Devin Nunes criticized on prominent billboards along 99

Devin Nunes is questioned about a trade war with China on three prominent billboards along Highway 99 near Fowler and Selma, California.
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Devin Nunes is questioned about a trade war with China on three prominent billboards along Highway 99 near Fowler and Selma, California.

Three new billboards on Highway 99 are criticizing Rep. Devin Nunes for catching what a Democratic super PAC calls "DC-itis."

In a nod to last year's "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" — an award-winning movie about a grieving mother who takes out her rage for her daughter's killer via the public signs — Fight Back California's campaign targets Nunes, who represents parts of Tulare and Fresno counties.

"Why is Devin Nunes hot on Russia..." the first sign reads.

Then comes another: "While farmers get burned by a trade war with China?"

The final sign asks, "Congressman Nunes, how could you forget us?"

Two billboards are located in Fowler and another is near Selma.

Nunes' office did not return a request for comment.

This is not the first time Nunes has been accused of not paying attention to his constituents while, as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he has been in the midst of an investigation into whether Russia interfered with the presidential election.

Doubt has been cast on his ability to do that job as a Republican ally of President Donald Trump, thrusting him further into the national spotlight.

Back at home, protesters rally outside his often vacant Clovis office once a week and continue to call for him to host a local town hall.

"He's been so obsessed with all things Washington, D.C., and particularly Russia, that he's been distracted from the voters in his district," said Katie Merrill, chief strategist for Fight Back California. "The voters that we have talked to in the Valley find that all very disconcerting. They have actually said to us that this is what happens to members who have been in office too long. They forget about their constituents."

Nunes was elected in 2002 and is running for reelection. His competition includes democrats Andrew Janz, Bobby Bliatout and Ricardo Franco; Libertarian Bill Merryman and nonpartisan candidate Brian Carroll.

Fight Back California was created last year to flip from red to blue the seven congressional districts that were won by Hillary Clinton in the presidential election but are held by Republicans.

While Nunes' 22nd District wasn't a part of that group, it's since been added because it's "vulnerable," Merrill said. (Republican Rep. David Valadao's 21st District in Hanford is also a focus of Fight Back California.)

The 22nd District has long been conservative but a political forecasting website downgraded it last month from "safely Republican" to "likely Republican," and Janz, a deputy district attorney in Fresno, has raised among the most money of any Democratic house candidate this year.

"As districts become more diverse, as they become more suburban, in some cases, the demographics change and the political attitudes change and the way people vote change," Merrill said. "This is happening in districts around California. Those folks who were once moderate or soft republicans are now choosing to be nonpartisan and that's impacting the strength of republican candidates in a negative way."

The billboards and an accompanying digital campaign has cost between $50 and $100,000 "and could expand to seven figures," Merrill said.

Mackenzie Mays: 559-441-6412, @MackenzieMays