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CA-21 Will Be One Of The Hottest Races In The Country

CA-21, a Central Valley district that stretches from the Hispanic neighborhoods of Bakersfield, north along the 5 in the west and the 99 in the east through Delano, Coalinga, Wasco, Hanford, Mendota and into the suburbs south of Fresno. The district is overwhelmingly rural and overwhelmingly Hispanic (74%). With a D+5 PVI it is the bluest district in the country with a Republican incumbent, David Valadao, who was ousted in 2018 by a mediocre conservative Democrat and then took advantage of the Democrat's scandal to be reelected two years later. Last year, Biden beat Trump in the district 54.4% to 43.5%, on the same day that Valadao beat Democrat TJ Cox 85,928 (50.4%) to 84,406 (49.6%). CA-21 is-- by far-- the lowest turn-out district in California and, I'm pretty certain, the lowest turn-out district anywhere in America. About a third of the district's voters live in Kern County, another third live in Fresno County and about a quarter live in Kings County. District-wide voter registration:

  • Democrat- 112,642

  • Republican- 70,093

  • No Party Preference- 18,633

The way the jungle primary works in California is that all the candidates run on the same ballot regardless of party. As of now Valadao has 7 challengers, 3 very conservative Democrats (Rudy Salas, Nicole Parra and Angel Lara), one solid progressive Democrat (Bryan Osorio) and 3 Trump-Republicans (Chris Mathys, Adam Medeiros and Martha Flores-Gibson). Right now Osorio, the mayor of Delano, is leading the Democrats in the money race, all of which is grassroots-derived. [Blue America endorsed him and you can contribute to his campaign here.] It looks like the final ballot will be one progressive, advocating for working families, vs 7 corporate conservatives.

Valadao has a big problem on his right because the local Republican parties are furious that he voted to impeach Trump. Valadao is a close ally of Kevin McCarthy and McCarthy has begged Trump to stay out of the race, although some observers expect Trump to denounce Valadao at some point and even throw his support to Chris Mathys, a wealthy former Fresno city councilmember. Mathys, who only raised $23,590, put $300,000 of his own money into the campaign so far and would be a threat to Valadao if Trump endorses him.

Aside from Osorio-- who is running on a strong progressive platform-- Mathys is the only candidate not hiding his positions. His website states clearly a bunch of crazy GOP talking points like "The Democrats want to establish and enforce catastrophic policies of Socialism, where Elite Politicians and Bureaucrats will regulate the media, banking, healthcare, education, what Americans buy and sell, and where we may live and travel." That's what the far right fringe has been repeating over and over since the Democrats passed Social Security in the 30s and Medicare in the 60s. After a long babbling bunch of nonsense about the Second Amendment, he ran this:

The latest candidate to jump in is conservative Bakersfield Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who has an F grade from the Courage Campaign and from the California League of Conservation Voters. Like Parra and Lara, Salas is trying to hide his atrocious record and never speaks about his conservatism. Corporate lobbyist and former state legislator Nicole Parra was considered the most right-wing Democrat in Sacramento, routinely endorsed Republicans and then quit the Democratic Party rejoining it to run for Congress. She has been endorsed by 4 of the most conservative current members of the legislature, including Rudy’s fellow Assembly Members Autumn Burke, Jim Cooper and Blanca Rubio as well as Salas' neighbor, Melissa Hurtado, widely considered the worst Democratic member of the state Senate.

Angel Lara is running an all-Twitter campaign, although he never tweets about policies or even about why he's running. He has no endorsements and no agenda outside of personal careerism. All of his tweets simply ask for donations.

Osorio has been the the top-fundraiser on the Democratic side for two consecutive quarters, while championing issues that impact working class families, showing he’s committed to supporting the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and immigration reform. As mayor this year, he’s working on decriminalizing cannabis, promoting affordable housing, and encouraging a conversation about building decarbonization. He was also able to pick up an endorsement from former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.

I checked in with Bryan this afternoon and he told me that he's "very grateful for all the support I’ve received over the last few months. When people heard a 25-year-old mayor, let alone one supporting the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-All, was jumping in this race, there was a lot of doubt. But two quarters later, we’ve shown we can put in the work. I just want to thank everyone across the Central Valley and to the folks across the country who believe it's possible for a progressive to win in the 21st congressional district."


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