For the good of the 22nd District and the nation, the choice is clear: Andrew Janz

Today The Fresno Bee takes a step it has not made since before 2002: It is recommending a candidate for the 22nd congressional district who is not Devin Nunes.

Instead, The Bee recommends Andrew Janz, the Democrat who offers the best chance to both lead the district by attending to its issues and then by striving for bipartisanship in Washington, D.C., which is the only answer to the poison of gridlock politics that is stifling debate and action at nearly all levels.

Throughout the fall campaign, the Republican Nunes has focused his ire at The Bee, slamming this newspaper for allegedly supporting Janz and having a supposed “leftist, liberal, socialist” agenda.

The truth is The Bee’s Editorial Board had not arrived at a recommendation pending interviews with the candidates to size them up. The Bee sent two invitations to Nunes to attend such a meeting; not once did he reply. Janz, by contrast, made time to sit down and discuss the issues. For that reason — and more — he has earned the recommendation.

Janz, 34, is a moderate Democrat who is campaigning without party support in his first election. The Democratic national committee has not seen his candidacy as a winner, given the 9-percentage-point advantage Nunes has in voter registration over Janz.

While that may seem a negative, it actually is a positive. Janz can act with a degree of independence from party politics and do what he thinks is best for the 22nd District.

Case in point: immigration. Janz veers from party orthodoxy by backing an earned right to citizenship, not amnesty. He wants to work out the details for a work visa program as well, which would supply badly needed labor to agriculture and other industries. When it comes to a wall, he says such a structure “is a giant waste of money” because it would not deter undocumented people from finding other ways to get into California. As he notes, drug and human trafficking already occur through the border’s regular checkpoints. Rather, he supports employing technology to beef up border security — drones, satellite surveillance, infrared imaging.

When it comes to gun control, Janz understands what it is to be a gun owner, as he is one. Janz is also a deputy district attorney who knows residents, especially those living in the farm and ranch country of the 22nd District, need to have a weapon for protection from wild animals, burglars and worse. Janz believes that people who have no convictions for violent crime should be able to arm themselves.

Janz also wants to change his party’s leadership in the House, meaning he does not back Nancy Pelosi, the San Franciscan who is the minority leader and is anathema to many in the Valley. Rather, he is looking for someone who can be less polarizing and more solution oriented.

As a prosecutor, Janz knows firsthand the impacts of crime on victims. That is also why he has a willingness to help the little guy. For example, Janz wants every American to have access to quality health care. How to make that happen? Janz is open to all ideas, especially town-hall meetings in the district to hear what his constituents think. One thing he says is non-negotiable: Pre-existing conditions must be covered.

Nunes, by contrast, voted along party lines in approving the House version of the American Health Care Act of 2017. It would have shrunk Medicaid by 15 million enrollees nationwide by 2026. Medicaid is the government program that covers low-income children, adults, seniors and people with disabilities, aiding one in five Americans. In Nunes’ district, 313,000 people were enrolled in Medi-Cal as of January. Of those, 74,000 would have immediately lost coverage, and all would have had their coverage impacted through loss of benefits or access to doctors. (Medi-Cal is California’s version of Medicaid).

Nunes did this despite the fact that his district has more people relying on government-paid medical assistance than almost anywhere else in the nation.

Many in law enforcement are registered Republicans, and yet Janz is a Democrat. Why? He says the party under FDR ended the Depression and won World War II. It is a party of big ideas, like Social Security and civil rights. That is what attracted him and motivates him today.

There is also a simple idea that Janz has hitched much of his appeal to: Being accessible and accountable. Nunes has completely avoided town-hall meetings in Visalia, Clovis or Fresno so voters could hear him and ask questions. Janz promises to hold at least four town hall meetings a year and have mobile office hours.

The willingness to listen extends to Republicans who would be his colleagues. Janz wants to work across the aisle to accomplish things like developing a new source of water for Valley farms. Nunes has done much to elevate the water discussion during his tenure, but he has also alienated Democratic representatives with his never-ending name-calling of environmentalists as leftists, socialists, even Communists. With no ground left for compromise, little has been accomplished. Janz will have a better chance of dealing with Democrat peers from elsewhere in the state on the water issue. Nothing will happen without compromise.

Voters in the 22nd District have a chance to become a model for the nation. They can elect a representative who will both help them with their needs, listen to their concerns and invite them into the process, and chart a bipartisan course that the nation must find if it is to meet the challenges of the future. That leader is Andrew Janz.

Voters can also choose Nunes and remain stuck with the damaging partisanship he practices, the party-above-country mode that motivates him to protect President Trump from the investigation into Russian meddling more than meet his constitutional obligations as an independent arm of government. Then there is his lack of regard for the needs of his part of California.

Voters of the 22nd, it is no stretch to say the eyes of the nation are watching to see how this race turns out. For the good of your district, and America at large, choose wisely.

How The Bee came to this recommendation

The Bee’s Editorial Board consists of Publisher Ken Riddick, Editor Joe Kieta, Editorial Page Editor Tad Weber, Vida en el Valle Editor Juan Esparza Loera, and Vida Staff Writer Maria Ortiz-Briones. They conducted an in-depth, in-person interview with Andrew Janz. Devin Nunes turned down repeated invitations. Additional research about the candidates was also done using publicly accessible online sources and The Bee’s archives.

The recommendation is just that: a helpful opinion meant to guide readers as they reach their own decision on which candidate to choose. This recommendation is the consensus opinion the Editorial Board; the news staff does not play any role in its creation.