Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Valadao still on immigration reform fence

David Valadao

Rep. David Valadao of Hanford said Tuesday he hasn’t ruled out a break with his Republican party’s leadership over comprehensive immigration reform.

“A bunch of us are getting nervous,” said during a Tuesday telephone news conference, The Bakersfield Californian‘s Steven Mayer reported, echoing comments he and fellow Valley Republican Jeff Denham made to Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle for a story published in Sunday’s Bee.

While Valadao said he favors a path to citizenship, he remained cautious Tuesday about whether to take the kind of risk Denham has taken and throw his support behind the bipartisan effort.

“I haven’t ruled that out yet,” Valadao said.

Several high-profile supporters of immigration reform joined Valadao at the news conference, including Fresno Chamber of Commerce CEO Al Smith, California Chamber President Marti Fisher, Nisei Farmers League President Manuel Cunha and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, who shared the stage for a round-table discussion (more coverage of Tuesday’s event, including video, here).

Amanda Renteria, who announced last month that she’ll run against Valadao next year, said in a statement Tuesday that Valadao is one of many in Washington who talk about problems rather than do something about them.

“Valadao could have taken part in bipartisan talks that have been going on all year, but he hasn’t,” she said. “He could have joined other Republicans and worked on a popular Democratic proposal, but he won’t do that, either. Congressman Valadao just isn’t getting the job done, and that’s unacceptable for the valley.”

Hernandez to seek 21st Congressional rematch against Valadao

John Hernandez

Last year, Fresno Democrat John Hernandez ran a low-budget, debt-ridden campaign against Hanford Republican David Valadao for the 21st Congressional District.

Valadao spanked Hernandez in the November election, winning by more than 15 percentage points — even though the district, on paper, appears to be drawn for a Hispanic Democrat.

Undaunted, Hernandez says he’s going to once again challenge Valadao. He plans to officially kick off his campaign Saturday with events in Bakersfield and Sanger.

“We’ve been working all summer,” Hernandez said. “I’m the candidate for this district.”

This time, though, it might not be so simple for Hernandez.

The main reason is Amanda Renteria, who looks like she will have the backing of most, if not all, of the Democratic Party establishment.

Hernandez has already torpedoed the Democratic Party’s plans once. Last year, it backed Fresno City Council Member Blong Xiong in the 21st District race, but in the June open primary, Valadao and Hernandez finished one-two and moved on to the general election, leaving Xiong in the dust.

But Xiong got a late start and his campaign never caught fire.

This time, Renteria is getting an early start and has some intangibles that Xiong didn’t — she is Hispanic and a female.

The 38-year-old graduate of Woodlake High School, Stanford and Harvard Business School was the first Latina chief of staff to a U.S. senator, and has now moved back to the central San Joaquin Valley to run.

This week, she picked up the endorsement of EMILY’s List, a group that supports female Democratic candidates.

Hernandez is undaunted.

“The key is we have the name recognition up and down the district,” he said. “Amanda has none of that. She’s going to have to start from scratch. Nobody knows her at all.”

Some of that echoes what Valadao has said about Renteria.

In the district, 73% of the 712,866 residents are counted as Hispanic or Latino, according to Census Bureau records.

Democrats also enjoy a 47%-32% voter registration advantage over Republicans in the district, which includes all of Kings and parts of Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties on the Valley’s west side.

Still, no Hispanic has ever been able to turn that kind of advantage into a victory.

Next year, the three hopefuls — Valadao, Hernandez and Renteria, as well as any others who jump in the race — will square off in the open primary. The top two vote getters move on to the November general election, regardless of party.

Assuming Valadao moves on as the likely lone Republican, the question is who will be his opponent — Renteria, the Democratic Party’s favored choice, or Hernandez, once again upsetting his party’s apple cart.