Race for Devin Nunes’ old House seat will move to June 7 runoff

As of about 2 a.m. ET, Conway had about 35% of the vote, while Democrat Lourin Hubbard was in second with about 20% and Republican Matt Stoll and Democrat Eric Garcia were behind him with about 15% each.

Because none of the candidates will win a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will face off on June 7 to determine who will serve out Nunes’ term.

Conway is the best-known of the six candidates vying to replace Nunes, who resigned in January and vacated his seat in the district that covers much of Fresno and Tulare counties.

Conway represented many of the region’s voters as a former Tulare County supervisor and former minority leader in the state Assembly. She had presented herself as a strong supporter of Trump who was best-suited to fill the remaining months of Nunes’ term because of her relationships with lawmakers throughout California and in Washington.

Republicans hold the edge in the district, but it has become increasingly competitive in recent years. In the most recent breakdown of party registration available from the state, nearly 39% of voters in the current 22nd District were registered as Republicans, 34% as Democrats and 20% as “no party preference.”

The vacancy created an unusual situation because the winner who fills Nunes’ seat is likely to only serve for a few months in Congress. The district, which covers portions of Fresno and Tulare counties, was broken into pieces by California’s non-partisan redistricting commission when they created the state’s new congressional maps. Under the new lines, much of Nunes’ old district will become part of the new 21st District, anchored by Fresno, where veteran Democratic Rep. Jim Costa is the front-runner in what is considered a safe seat for his party.

In part because of the brevity of the assignment, the primary race to replace Nunes among four Republicans and two Democrats was largely congenial, focusing largely on local issues like drought and the struggle to get more water to farmers in the Central Valley.

The major divide among the Republican candidates was between those who said they were only focused on the Nunes seat and those who were simultaneously seeking another congressional office for the term that begins in 2023.

Conway argued voters should support her because she would serve in a “caretaker” role and not use the office as a “stepping stone” to another congressional office, promising to focus on unfinished district work including helping constituents troubleshoot problems like passport delays and Social Security benefits.

Three of the candidates — Stoll, Garcia and Republican Michael Maher — are also seeking to represent the new 21st District, where they will face Costa for a normal two-year term that begins in 2023.

Under California’s rules, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes (50% plus 1) in the special election, the top-two finishers, regardless of party, proceed to a June 7 runoff. That will be the same day that California holds its statewide primary election. A runoff could produce confusion, because the names of one or more of the special election candidates could appear twice on the June ballot if they’re competing for a second office.

In an interview with CNN before Tuesday’s primary, Conway expressed her desire to try to address water shortages in the Central Valley that have devastated the region’s farmers, noting her frustration with the string of lawsuits from “extreme environmentalists” and the amount of time that has passed without a compromise that would allow the region’s agricultural industry to thrive. She noted that she was one of the co-authors of California’s 2014 water bond that allowed state officials to borrow billions of dollars for water storage projects, including dams and reservoirs, and provided resources to address groundwater contamination.

She also highlighted her work across the aisle in the California state legislature, working on initiatives like replenishing the state’s rainy day fund with former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

“I’ve had many opportunities that the voters graciously gave me and I’ve learned from those,” she said. “I’m not a lifelong politician. I was 50 years old when I got elected to the Board of Supervisors — so it was a quick study. I think when younger people, when they get elected, they think they have more time. I said, ‘No, I’m here to work.'”

Stoll, a retired Navy fighter pilot and small business owner, said he would use his time in Congress “to roll back every aspect of the progressive agenda and what Joe Biden stands for.”

Garcia, a Marine veteran, told CNN he would only focus on one piece of legislation to aid the Valley’s struggling families during the remaining months of Nunes’ term — an effort to reinstate the enhanced monthly child tax credit that ended in 2021 after Democrats’ efforts to extend it collapsed. In his race in the 21st Congressional District, as well as the Nunes district, he has focused on the longstanding problems with air pollution and water contamination in the Central Valley — calling himself a voice for those who “have been left behind.”

Hubbard is a manager at the state water resources control board. Like Conway, he’s not seeking another congressional office, has championed progressive policies that go well beyond even what Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed as a presidential candidate. He told CNN he favors eliminating all federal taxes on overtime to help lower-income and middle-income families. He supports canceling student loan debt, favors tuition-free community college, and would also like to see “debt-free public college” where the state and federal government defray the costs of four-year public universities. He also wants the federal government to guarantee every person in America a union job that pays at least $20 an hour and is shaping a proposal that would ask the government to pay off up to $25,000 or $50,000 of medical debt for some American families to help alleviate the financial pressures that many are feeling.

This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.

Quoted from Various Sources

Published for: The Bloggers Briefing