As election day inches closer and closer, California voters will get their chance to voice who they want representing them in government at the local, state, and federal races. California is widely known for its Democratic supermajority in government. No Republican has been elected to a statewide office since Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected to the governor’s office back in 2006. However, the Central Valley has recently become one of the state’s biggest and most competitive battlegrounds.
At the federal level, a key congressional race that will help determine which party controls the House of Representatives is being played out right here in our backyard. That race being for California’s 22nd Congressional District. Incumbent Republican David Valadao is facing off against Democratic challenger Assemblymember Rudy Salas.
Valadao, who was a dairy farmer from Hanford prior to entering politics, was first elected to Congress in 2012 after serving one term in the state assembly. Valadao was elected to CA-21 and held on to his seat in Congress up until 2018, in which Democrat T.J. Cox challenged and beat Valadao in a very tight and competitive race. Cox won the election by a narrow vote margin of 862 votes. The race dragged on for weeks after election day was over. By November 18, 2018, the race was called for Cox.
It would not take long for Valadao to hold office once again, however, and in 2020, Valadao regained his seat in Congress after defeating Cox in a rematch. Valadao won the election by a total vote margin of just 1,754 votes. However, shortly after entering Congress for the second time, Valadao voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump for his involvement in the Insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Valadao became one of only 10 House Republicans to do so.
Out of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, two Republicans survived their primaries. That’s even if they decided to run for re-election in the first place. Valadao is one of the two survivors. However, Valadao was not short of any challengers from more Trump-aligned candidates. Republican challengers Chris Mathys, a former Fresno city council member, and businessman Adam Medeiros both decided to challenge Valadao for the Republican nomination. Nevertheless, both failed to defeat Valadao in the jungle primary and Mathys fell behind Valadao by a mere two percent.
On the Democratic side, Assemblymember Rudy Salas of AD-32 announced his candidacy for the seat back in October of 2021. Salas was first elected to the state assembly in 2012, representing the exact same seat Valadao had presented for the past two years. Prior to serving in the state assembly, Salas was elected the first Latino in Bakersfield history to serve on the Bakersfield City Council.
During the June 7 primary earlier this year, Salas garnered 45.4% of the vote, ahead of Valadao, Mathys, and Medeiros. Valadao, on the other hand, only managed to receive 25.6% of the total vote. Both Salas and Valadao qualified to advance to the general election and will face off on November 8th of this year.
The 22nd Congressional race has gotten the attention of many across the nation. One of the biggest stories coming out of the race is the involvement of former President Trump or lack thereof.
Trump endorsed multiple republican primary challengers who ran to replace the few republicans who voted to impeach the former president after January 6. However, Trump did not endorse any challenger in this race. Trump’s endorsement is a likely fatal blow to Valadao’s chances of being re-elected.
Multiple media outlets attribute Trump’s unwillingness to endorse a challenger against Valadao due to the district neighboring House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s congressional district. McCarthy is mentioned as the reason why Valadao, his republican neighbor, did not have Trump get involved in the race. Valadao was seen by McCarthy as the best chance to keep control of the seat.
With election day approaching, many are uncertain how the race will play out. As of November 2, FiveThirtyEight has Valadao with a slight edge over Salas, citing polls conducted by RMG Research and David Binder Research. Although it is important to note, both polls have Salas ahead by five and eight points.
After the 2020 census took place, redistricting brought the district a lot more blue voters. The new district left out certain parts of Kings County, the more conservative region of the community. The district also added on parts of Kern County. This addition added more Democratic voters within boundaries.
Both candidates have raised millions of dollars through fundraising. The Federal Election Commission reports that Valadao has over $3.4 million in total receipts. Salas on the other hand has almost $2.6 million in total receipts. The race has now become the second most expensive congressional House race in the entire nation, with over $32 million being raised for the race by both sides collectively and over $25 million has been spent already.
Clearly, the race will without a doubt go down to the wire. A projected winner may very well not be called until days or weeks after election day has already passed. Over 22 million ballots have already been mailed out to registered voters across the state. With such a close race and its importance in determining the future of the next Congress, it will be interesting to see how much of an impact Central Valley voters will have in determining the future of Washington DC, and the nation.