California News

Republican Representative David Valadao wins re-election in the Central Valley

Central Valley Republican Representative David Valadao, whose vote to impeach President Trump nearly sank his campaign in the primary, will return to Congress next year, having defeated Democratic Congressman Rudy Salas.

The Associated Press called the race on Monday, although official results will take longer. After control of the House swung to Republicans last week, Valadao’s victory and California’s last two congressional races determine the size of the GOP majority.

“I am once again humbled by Central Valley’s support and belief in me,” Valadao said in a statement late Monday. “I commend Rudy Salas for his vigorous campaigning and service to our community in the State Assembly.”

Valadao also thanked the campaign workers and volunteers and those still working to count the ballots. “To the election workers of Kern, Kings and Tulare counties – I appreciate your hard work over the past two weeks to ensure that every vote was counted fairly and accurately.”

The race for California’s 22nd congressional district has long been considered a draw. Voters there had sided with Joe Biden against President Trump by 13 percentage points in 2020, making Valadao one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents in the country.

But Salas, 45, has faced the same headwinds as other Democrats around the country: high gas prices and concerns about crime, both of which have been the subject of a deluge of publicity ads. attack on him.

Democrats had long tried to recruit Salas to run against Valadao. Before serving five terms in the Assembly, Salas was the first Latino to serve on the Bakersfield City Council.

In the campaign, Salas highlighted his family line of farmworkers, including his childhood summers helping his father in the fields. Valadao also has an agricultural bona fide, operating a small dairy farm. Both touted their work to shore up the district’s water resources, a major concern in this rural area.

Valadao, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, has been a perpetual target for Democrats, who have held a significant registration advantage in his district. A moderate Republican, Valadao had underlined his support for immigration reform, breaking with his party. Yet Democrats successfully ousted him in the 2018 blue wave, only for Valadao to regain the seat in 2020.

However, he didn’t have much time to bask in the glow of his victory. The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — which he watched from his Hanford home while quarantined with COVID-19 — led Valadao, 45, to be one of 10 House Republicans to vote for the impeachment of President Trump.

The backlash from the right was swift. Two Republicans jumped into the race for Congress, citing Valadao’s impeachment vote as their main motivating factor. But while Trump endorsed challengers from all other pro-impeachment Republicans seeking re-election, the former president was remarkably quiet ahead of the Valadao primary.

Trump stayed out of the race for California’s 22nd District at the behest of GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who comes from nearby Bakersfield. Given the district’s Democratic tilt, McCarthy convinced Trump that Valadao was the only Republican who could retain that seat. In the June primary, Valadao’s two challengers split the vote, allowing the congressman to narrowly qualify for the general election.

Valadao’s struggles with the base were emblematic of the fallout for House Republicans who supported impeachment. Of the 10, four chose to retire rather than run again. Four others, including Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, lost in the primary to a Trump-backed opponent. Valadao and Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington are the only two remaining in the House.

California Daily Newspapers

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