The election will fill the US House seat vacated by Trump ally Nunes


FILE – U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, R-California, speaks during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2021. Voters across California’s vast farming belt occupy a Congressional seat left vacant after Nunes resigned. running former President Donald Trump’s media company. (Al Drago/Pool Photo via AP, File)


Voters in California’s vast farming belt will fill a congressional seat left vacant on Tuesday after Republican Rep. Devin Nunes resigned amid his tenure to run former President Donald Trump’s fledgling media company.

The special election in the Republican-leaning 22nd District has been largely ignored as National Democrats and Republicans focus on the midterm elections that will determine control of Congress in 2023.

The state’s Central Valley seat – sometimes called the salad bowl of the country because of its agricultural output – is expected to remain in Republican hands.

Nunes’ unexpected departure in January created an unusual situation for his former constituents: the winner of the election will serve only months in Congress, and the district will disappear next year because of redrawn borders.

Postal voting began last month and early feedback indicates low turnout. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic making headlines, campaigns say voters they contact are sometimes surprised to learn an election is taking place or are unaware that Nunes, a prominent Trump loyalist in Congress, resigned.

If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff between the top two will coincide with statewide primary elections on June 7.

There are six candidates on the ballot – four Republicans and two Democrats. With a potential runoff, there’s a chance two Republicans will face off for the seat in June.

“Anything is possible at this point,” said Connie Conway, a former county supervisor, Republican leader in the state Assembly and Trump administration appointee, who is the best-known candidate among the contenders.

Nunes, 48, was comfortably re-elected in November 2020 before leaving office with one year to join the Trump Media & Technology Group. The company hopes its social media platform will rival rivals like Twitter and Facebook, which blocked the former president’s accounts after the deadly storming of the US Capitol on January 6.

Other candidates include Republican Elizabeth Heng, a tech executive who lost her congressional race in a neighboring district in 2018 and briefly ran for the US Senate; Michael Maher, a Navy veteran and former FBI special agent; and former Navy combat pilot Matt Stoll, a small business owner.

Democrats on the ballot are Eric Garcia, a Navy and Iraq War veteran, and Lourin Hubbard, a director of the state Department of Water Resources.

Different agendas are at stake. Conway, if elected, plans to serve only the remainder of Nunes’ term. However, Garcia, Maher and Stoll are also running in the June statewide primary in a newly drawn district — the 21st — that includes a slice of Nunes territory. In that race, they’ll face Democratic Rep. Jim Costa, and it’s obvious they’re hoping a victory in Nunes’ former territory will be a stepping stone to winning the district.

A second round would be politically tricky for Garcia, Maher or Stoll. In this case, a candidate’s name would end up appearing twice on the June ballot – once in a runoff for the vacant Nunes seat and a second time in a new House district for the term that begins in 2023. Voters could easily be confused by seeing the same name twice.

With little at stake in the contest to replace Nunes, money has been tight and, as a result, publicity has been sporadic.

Federal fundraising records show Garcia, for example, raised more than $200,000 but only had $1,700 in the bank as of mid-March. Heng raised $215,000 and had around $60,000 on hand at the time. But she also racked up $95,000 in unpaid bills, leaving her campaign effectively in debt.

The result also won’t tip the balance of power on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

The little-watched contest is taking place in a difficult political environment for congressional Democrats. Polls show many Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is heading, and President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted.

While the contest for the vacant Nunes seat has been a national afterthought, California is at the center of the fight for the House. There are about half a dozen highly competitive districts in the June ballot. Such contests are rare in the liberal-minded state, where Democrats hold all statewide positions, dominate in the Legislature and have a 42-10 advantage in the congressional delegation. .

Nationally, 30 House Democrats and 15 Republicans are not seeking re-election this year. Additionally, there are 5 vacancies in the House due to resignations or deaths.

Lynn A. Saleh