Political Notebook

Rep. David Valadao has change of heart on Donald Trump

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, speaks Wednesday morning at an “Eggs and Issues” breakfast organized by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.
Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, speaks Wednesday morning at an “Eggs and Issues” breakfast organized by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce. rsyed@fresnobee.com

Rep. David Valadao, who represents a heavily Hispanic swath of the central San Joaquin Valley, has had a change of heart over his initial support of Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

The Hanford Republican, in a statement released by his campaign last week, now says he cannot support a candidate whose divisive rhetoric “denigrates people based on their ethnicity, religion, or disabilities.”

“I am disappointed with the divisive rhetoric coming from this Presidential Election and cannot support either candidate,” Valadao said in the statement released June 22.

Trump has faced criticism for comments he has made about Mexican immigrants since formally announcing his campaign in June 2015. Valadao’s 21st Congressional District – which includes Coalinga, Hanford and Delano – is around 72 percent Hispanic.

Valadao declined Wednesday morning to elaborate on what prompted his shift when questioned at a central Fresno “Eggs and Issues” banquet organized by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce at Pardini’s Catering & Banquets.

“I’ve just been sitting back and watching,” Valadao said. “I think it’s just been the campaign in general and the statement actually speaks for itself. So we’re just going to leave it at that.”

In May, after Trump was already the presumptive nominee for around a week, Valadao was quoted in the Los Angeles Times saying, “I’m going to stick with the winner from my party, obviously.” Asked Wednesday to explain the dramatic change in his position, the congressman said, “I wouldn’t say it’s that dramatic but at the end of the day, I’m just going to let the statement speak for itself.”

Valadao then said he had to leave and hurried out to the parking lot.

It’s not the first time Valadao has side-stepped the question of Trump. Earlier this month, when asked about Trump, his office issued a statement saying the congressman would not “focus on politics.”

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, whose district includes Clovis, Tulare and Visalia, said earlier this month that he plans on supporting the Republican nominee.

During his “Eggs and Issues” talk, Valadao spoke about water, immigration and the sit-in by Democratic lawmakers.

Valadao said he was hopeful about getting the Senate to pass bills that had been amended with water-related provisions, which include language on pumping water to farms south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and studies on potential storage projects.

“This is the closest we’ve ever been,” Valadao said. “A few weeks ago, senators came up with an energy bill and sent it over to the House side. First thing we did was we amended my language into that bill and sent it back – that’s an opportunity for us to go to conference with the language that we passed.”

A total of five bills now have water language in them, Valadao said, including one added to an energy package and another that was added to an energy and water appropriations bill.

Regarding the sit-in by House Democrats, Valadao said the lawmakers could have used other methods to a get a vote on legislation that would ban those on a “no-fly list” from purchasing guns.

“It’s just what they’ve been calling it – a publicity stunt,” Valadao said. The congressman also said that the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the legislation because of the lack of due process involved in being placed on a “no-fly list.”

Valadao also spoke about the urgent need to get immigration legislation done.

“I think we have to look at our guest-worker program. I think we need to look at our visa program,” he said. “I think we have to look at border security.

“For me, the bill has to be comprehensive – we have to cover all aspects of it,” Valadao said, though he was open to the legislation being done in stages or separate parts.

“You have to do it all. You have to do it right,” he said.

Razi Syed: 559-441-6679, @razisyed