Political Notebook

Valley’s GOP congressional delegation falls in line behind Trump

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford
Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford

At this point, it’s still unknown which Democrat will face incumbent Rep. David Valadao in November, but whichever one it is, it’s guaranteed they’ll work nonstop to tie the Hanford Republican to Donald Trump.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee would seem an odd fit for central San Joaquin Valley legislators. He’s opposed to the Trans Pacific Partnership. He’s taken a hard line on immigrants that are vital to Valley agriculture. He’s called Mexicans who cross the border rapists and criminals.

Despite that, the Valley’s four Republican congressmen are all backing, or on their way to backing, Trump – even though the real estate mogul didn’t really seem to excite the delegation before he secured enough delegates to win the nomination.

Valadao, for instance, had last October endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Visalia Republican Devin Nunes was mum. Elk Grove Republican Tom McClintock, whose district covers parts of far eastern Fresno and Madera counties, supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

The main reason for supporting Trump seems to be that he almost certainly will be the party’s presidential nominee.

“I plan on supporting the Republican nominee out of the convention,” Nunes said. “I’m looking forward to meeting Donald Trump to discuss California water, tax reform and intelligence issues.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, is a Trump delegate. McClintock also fell in line after Cruz pulled out of the race following Trump’s primary election victory in Indiana.

But Valadao, it would seem, has the most on the line. Nunes, McCarthy and McClintock all represent strongly Republican districts and are facing Democratic Party challengers in November.

Valadao, on the other hand, represents a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 16 percentage points. It is also a majority Latino district.

Despite the deficit, Valadao easily dispatched Democratic Party challengers in 2012 and 2014. In 2014, it was the well-financed Amanda Renteria, who is now political director for Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee.

This year, Fowler Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Parra and Bakersfield attorney Emilio Huerta are vying to challenge Valadao. Parra currently has a narrow lead over Huerta, who is the son of United Farm Workers’ co-founder Dolores Huerta.

As usual, national political pundits have Valadao’s 21st Congressional District on the list of competitive races. And Democrats are already going after Valadao for his association with Trump and will likely continue to do so no matter who ultimately wins between Huerta and Parra.

So where exactly does Valadao stand on Trump?

Last fall, not long after Valadao endorsed Bush, he appeared on KGPE (Channel 47.1) to talk some politics and policy. During the interview, it was noted that Trump and Ben Carson were polling ahead of Bush.

“Will you be able to support one of those two if they make it?” Valadao was asked.

“Absolutely,” Valadao replied. “I’m going to stick with the winner from my party.”

Recently, Valadao was given a chance to clarify his statement from last fall. Valadao didn’t talk specifically. Instead, his spokeswoman Anna Vetter issued a written statement from Cole Rojewski, Valadao’s chief of staff: “Congressman Valadao is not going to focus on politics. Instead, he’s going to keep doing what he was elected to do: represent his Central Valley constituents.”