California GOP Rep. Valadao advances in US House District
Representative David Valadao qualified for a November runoff in a Democratic-leaning district in California’s Central Valley on Friday, surviving a challenge from a fellow Republican who blamed the congressman for voting to impeach the then President Donald Trump.
With most votes counted in the 22nd arrondissement, Valadao won about 26% of the vote, several points ahead of Republican rival Chris Mathys.
Valadao’s lead in the November runoff against Democrat Rudy Salas, a state lawmaker, crowns a competitive running slate in California districts that will play in the fight for control of Congress this year.
Valadao, who has never been a Trump loyalist and highlights an independent streak, held his seat from 2013 to January 2019, lost it to one term, then won it back in a rematch in 2020 with Democrat TJ Cox, despite running in a heavily Democratic district.
His newly drawn district, 22, has a similar strong Democratic slant. Mathys, a staunch Trump supporter, has vowed to oust Valadao for his impeachment vote. But Trump never made a meaningful commitment to the race and Valadao, a dairy farmer and son of Portuguese immigrants, had the endorsement of the state’s GOP and the backing of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is close to Trump.
Valadao did not endorse then-candidate Trump in 2016, but then backed his re-election four years later.
However, Valadao would occasionally break with the Trump White House, including criticizing the administration for family separations at the border. He introduced himself in 2020 as an “independent problem solver” and in an advertisement highlighted his work with former President Barack Obama on critical water issues in the agricultural belt region.
He called Trump the driving force behind the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Trump’s “inciting rhetoric was un-American, abhorrent and absolutely an inscrutable offense,” Valadao said.
Democrats hope to defend their fragile House majority in midterm elections that usually punish the party that controls the White House. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted as Americans grapple with record inflation, a lingering pandemic and soaring gasoline prices.
Another of the state’s flagship races will be in a Democratic-leaning district north of Los Angeles, where Republican Rep. Mike Garcia will have a rematch with the Democrat he defeated two years ago, the former lawmaker Christy Smith.
In a tightly divided coastal district of Orange County, Democratic Representative Katie Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, will face Republican Scott Baugh, the state’s former legislative leader.
In a diverse neighborhood rooted in Orange County, Republican U.S. Representative Michelle Steel, a South Korean immigrant, will take on Democrat Jay Chen. The district, which includes the largest Vietnamese American community in the country, is widely seen as a puzzle.