By Seth Nidever
LEMOORE — Touting his status as the only person living in the district, Assemblyman David Valadao, R-Hanford, officially launched his congressional campaign in Lemoore this week in front of a roomful of supporters.
“Kings County being my strong point, I want to do it here,” said Valadao, who is part of a family dairy business south of Hanford.
Valadao is running in the new 21st Congressional District, which pushed out Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, when redistricting lines were drawn last year. Costa is now seeking re-election in the 16th Congressional District stretching north from Fresno.
The 21st District includes all of Kings and parts of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties. It leaves out the city of Fresno, but incorporates part of Bakersfield. Candidates are not required to live in the district.
As of 3 p.m. Friday, Valadao faces three candidates on the Democratic side — John Hernandez, CEO of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Blong Xiong, Fresno city councilman; and Randall Guerra, CEO of Sanger-based Aspera Housing Inc. The filing deadline was 5 p.m.
Hernandez announced his candidacy in January. He said he hasn’t been helped by speculation that other big Democratic names were going to enter the race. Former state Sen. Dean Florez, former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and current 16th State Senate District incumbent Michael Rubio all flirted with running, but never filed.
“I actually had to wait for endorsements until the filing deadline arrived,” he said.
Valadao campaign staff members think the withdrawal of all the high-profile Democratic names, particularly Bustamante, is good news for their man.
“The Democrats are kind of in a tough spot,” said Tal Eslick, Valadao campaign manager. “The guys they wanted in this race haven’t jumped in.”
Valadao, who has been raising money since August, has about $400,000 in his campaign war chest. Last month, he achieved “contender” status in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program, which identified promising candidates for funding and support. The “contender” status is the third of four steps in the program.
Hernandez has about $40,000 on hand. Hernandez is courting the Democratic National Congressional Committee, but hasn’t received funding commitments yet.
Valadao’s Kings County supporters, many of whom had soured on Costa, like the fact that he is a hometown candidate.
“It was good to see somebody like David coming to run,” said Lemoore resident Russ Jordan. “He is right from here.”
“I’m the only one with ties to the district,” Valadao said. “I’ve got the energy to do this.”
Candidates in other Kings County races include:
Assembly, 32nd District: Bakersfield City Council member Rudy Salas (D); Kern County Supervisor Jon McQuiston (R); former Delano Councilman Pedro Rios (R); Dave Thomas (R), former member of the Hanford City Council.
Board of Supervisors, District 2: Supervisor Richard Valle; former Avenal City Councilman Sid Craighead; Ron Hoggard, interim Hanford city manager and former Corcoran city manager; Brandon LaMattino, president of the Lakeside Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees; Corcoran District Hospital director Donald Chavez.
Board of Supervisors, District 5: Supervisor Richard Fagundes; businessman Bezabih “Buzz” Felleke; Alfred Benavidez, a bookkeeper and former trustee for the Hanford Joint Union High School District.
Judge: Judge George Orndoff; Hanford attorney Jennifer Lee Giuliani.
The election will be held June 5. The top two candidates will advance to a November run-off, although hopefuls in the supervisor and judge races can win outright if they get more than 50 percent of the June vote.