California’s 21st congressional district is one of the poorest in the nation. In one measurement of that fact, 17 percent of children 17 years old and younger live in families with annual incomes less than half of the federal poverty level of $24,339. The district also has one of the state’s largest enrollments of people who depend on Medi-Cal, the federally supported health care.
Yet Republican congressman David Valadao of Hanford voted to sharply cut Medi-Cal and future enrollments in the program last year when he backed the American Health Care Act, the House GOP leadership’s answer to Obamacare. That measure failed in the Senate.
Now campaigning for his next term, Valadao is facing criticism from Democrat TJ Cox for voting in near-perfect unanimity with the Trump/GOP platform. A review of Valadao’s record in this past term shows he voted:
▪ to delay the date when polluters must meet ground-level ozone standards. Ozone is one of the two key contributors to bad air quality in the central San Joaquin Valley, which is one of the worst air basins in the nation;
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▪ to repeal a federal regulation that requires internet service providers to get customers’ consent to share their personal information with third parties;
▪ to deny federal grants to any cities that declare themselves to be sanctuaries for undocumented people;
▪ to prohibit abortions past the 20-week mark of pregnancy except in certain cases of rape or incest.
Valadao has succeeded in getting re-elected despite Democrats having a 16-percentage point lead in voter registration over the GOP. The district covers all of Kings County and portions of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties. Kings County is the only area where GOP voters outnumber Democrats.
But Cox has stepped to the challenge this year, and he brings business experience that is founded on helping lower-income people like those in the 21st District. The Bee recommends voters support Cox this November.
Cox, who lives in Fresno, is an engineer by profession, but works today as president and chief operating officer of the Central Valley New Market Tax Credit Fund. That entity has helped funnel federal dollars to local construction projects for things like health clinics in Selma, Fowler, Parlier and Mendota, housing subdivisions for low-income people and facilities at community colleges, such as the Farm of the Future at West Hills Community College in Coalinga.
Through the New Market fund, Cox says he has helped invest $40 million in the 21st District, creating 766 jobs in the process.
When it comes to health care, Cox wants affordable, quality insurance for all Americans, with an emphasis on preventative care like that practiced at the health clinics.
Cox also wants to pass the Dream Act to allow young people brought here by undocumented parents to become citizens, and he would end the Trump policy of separating families at the border and would not support construction of a wall. Rather, high-tech means can be used to patrol the border, he believes.
To alleviate water shortages, Cox supports investing in infrastructure that would allow farmers to flood their fields in wet years to recharge their underground basins. He also is a proponent of regular water “banking,” in which water stored in lakes is injected in the groundwater table for use in dry years.
Cox is critical of the trade war President Trump has started with China and other trading partners, calling the tariffs being imposed as a form of tax that Valley farmers and consumers will pay. The only effective way to deal with unfair trading is by negotiating with other countries, Cox said.
When it comes to bringing bipartisanship back to the House, Cox said he is well suited for that task. “Working in the Central Valley, most of my partners and friends are Republicans. I am a Democrat because we invest in people.”
Cox was willing to meet with The Bee’s Editorial Board, an invitation that Valadao turned down. It is regrettable that the incumbent congressman for the district was not willing to face the board’s questions on behalf of its readers. Elected officials should not shy away from accountability.
But The Bee’s support for Cox is not based on one gathering. Rather, it is the belief that he is more focused on the needs of the district’s residents and can better deliver crucial services to those who need the assistance. If Democrats turn out to vote, Cox could well become the 21st District’s next congressman.
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 TJ Cox; David Valadao decline an invitation. 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.