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2 Democrats challenge Republican incumbent in Valley congressional race

Two Democrats are hoping to unseat Republican David Valadao in the race for the 21st Congressional District.
April 18, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two Democrats are hoping to unseat Republican David Valadao in the race for the 21st Congressional District.

The district includes parts of Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. The incumbent Republican David Valadao has held the seat for just one term. His priority is water.

"Right now, obviously the number one issue is water, and so we've been spending a lot of time on water. We passed a bill earlier this year, 3964 the bill is now over on the Senate side."

But Valadao's bill calls for changes in environmental and water laws that is given no chance of passage in the Senate. He says he is however, hoping to strike a compromise with a water bill drawn up by Senate Democrats.

Valadao served one term in the State Assembly then won the 21st District seat in 2012, even though Democrats have a majority in the district. He's being backed by Republican heavy hitters including House Speaker John Boehner and has received campaign cash from the Koch brothers. He has more than $800,000 in his campaign accounts.

The Democratic Party's favorite in the race is Amanda Renteria. She's raised about half a million dollars. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, her priority is immigration.

"We've got to stop the deportation, and we've got to pass immigration reform. And we've got to lead on it. The difference between the congressman and I is he voted against the California Dream Act, and I just don't believe we can cut off any child's hope for college."

The district is 72 percent Hispanic. Renteria grew up in Woodlake, and with degrees from Stanford and Harvard she spent 10 years in Washington working for Democratic Senators. She moved back to the district less than a year ago and is working as a substitute teacher in Sanger.

The third candidate on the June primary is Democrat John Hernandez. He lost to Valadao in 2012, but says his grassroots campaign better represents the people of the Valley than the others.

"I'm running against two people who are Washington D.C. central. We are running against the political industrial complex that I call Washington D.C., a lot of people are tired of Washington picking our leaders."

His top issue is stopping fracking in the Central Valley.

"I'm the only candidate in the race focused on saying no to fracking. Fracking is a way that destroys our land and our water here in the Valley."

All three candidates, Valadao, Renteria and Hernandez will be on the June primary ballot. The top two will move on to the November election.

The campaign is expected to get hot after the primary. Democrats see Valadao as vulnerable because of the Democratic edge in voter registration and the Hispanic majority. But, Valadao's strong support from Ag community and his opposition to high-speed rail are likely to be strong motivators for Republicans to go to the polls.

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