The gloves come off as the race heats up for the open Dist. 13 seat in Congress — Merced County Times


If you’re a Merced County voter and think Adam Gray is set to win a seat in the US Congress after several terms representing that area in the State Assembly, well, think again.

The 44-year-old Merced native has a real fight on his hands.

At least that’s what’s being suggested in the current field of seven candidates so far. Hopes from both major political parties say the race to represent the newly formed District 13 – a predominantly Latino region comprising Merced County and parts of Fresno, Madera, Turlock and Modesto County – will draw national attention and results surprises in the June 7 primary. .

One thing is certain. The first two voters in June, regardless of political affiliation, will advance to the November 8 general election.

Democrat Phil Arballo of Fresno thinks he will be one of those top candidates.

“Merced has been left behind for the past 15 years or more with politicians who have been very comfortable and comfortable in their positions, and who side and side with the big special interest groups and businesses filling their campaign coffers,” Arballo told The Times this week. “You know that’s what they’re here for. Their interests, so to speak. … It’s time to take this valley in a different direction.

The candidate specifies that the new 13th constituency will not involve a race for notoriety.

“It’s a brand new district, and it deserves a brand new face to represent it in Congress – not someone who thinks he’s entitled to the seat because he ran for the Assembly of the State. It’s a completely different experience running for Congress than running for Assembly. It’s completely different legislatively. … I’m the only one in this race who has ever run a national campaign. You must getting yourself known outside of the city of Merced, and I understand that’s where Adam is very comfortable. It’s going to take a lot more resources. You’re going to have to get out of your comfort level. You have to set up like Huron and Mendota.Even Dos Palos and Santa Nella on the west side of Merced County and places like Patterson.

Arballo is being tested after challenging GOP icon Devin Nunes for Congress just two years ago. But he lost that race. Nonetheless, he recently gained endorsement from the public employees union SEIU, and he hopes to get his message across at the California Democratic Party’s State Convention this weekend. Initially, Gray received 68% of the vote in the Democratic Party’s pre-endorsement poll on Arballo, but that result fell just short of an automatic party endorsement.

Arballo came out swinging before the convention. In a recent press release, he highlighted public record campaign donations that “show [Gray] is bought and paid for by special interest groups that don’t care about people’s health, our children or the environment.

He said $600,000 in campaign contributions to Gray over the years came “from some of the worst political actors, including Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Oil & Gas, private prisons and a payday loan company.” The list included $34,000 from Juul, the e-cigarette company; and $40,000 from Abbott Laboratories, a major producer of OxyContin.

Says Arballo, “Someone who ties themselves to corporate interests and sells out their constituents like voting against raising the minimum wage doesn’t have to receive the Democratic Party’s endorsement.”

Gray has represented all of Merced and the western portion of Stanislaus Counties in the State Assembly for the past 10 years.

And the campaign endorsements keep pouring in for Gray.

The Latino Democrats of Stanislaus County, the Stanislaus and Fresno-Madera Building Trades Council and the Modesto City Fire Fighters Association are among the latest groups to add their names to Gray’s list.

“Every endorsement is important,” Gray said, “but I’m especially proud of those from groups representing workers — such as unions and associations. We have won many victories for our region and for the people these groups represent, but we still have work to do.

Gray was a strong legislative advocate for a medical school in the San Joaquin Valley and for the expansion of health clinics and more medical residency positions in the Central Valley.

“Adam Gray in Washington will be a boon to our area,” Merced County Supervisor Josh Pedrozo said. “He knows the issues and has worked with many local, state and federal officials who represent us. He will hit the ground running.

He will first have to go through a strong field, a primary election and a general election.

Others who have filed for the 13th District include Republican businessman David Giglio of Madera County; Diego Martinez, a Republican from Sonora; and educator Angelina Sigala, a Modesto Democrat. There’s also Republican Elizabeth Heng who challenged Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, in 2018. Heng is also vying to fill former Congressman Devin Nunes’ remaining 2022 term in the 22nd congressional district. . That will be decided in a special election on June 7 after a primary on April 5. Visalia Republican Matt Stoll appears to have the same strategy, filing paperwork for the 22nd and 13th district races.

Of all the candidates, Giglio has campaigned the longest – about a year ago, when he thought he would face Costa before the redistricting process changed the course.

Now Giglio says he’s more excited than before.

“Every time you have a free seat, you have a much better opportunity to flip that seat,” he told The Times. The candidate says his team just completed a recent poll that shows Giglio is statistically tied with Gray in a one-on-one matchup.

“I’m the only candidate within 15 points of beating Adam Gray,” he said. “I mean that bodes very well for us so early in the race. We haven’t started deploying our army yet. We have close to half a million dollars in cash. … We are focused on beating Adam Gray has been our agenda here ever since we found out Adam was the candidate over the phone.

Giglio warns voters not to be fooled by the way Gray “presents himself as a moderate.”

“He’s not a moderate. He simply doesn’t vote on any of the more controversial bills because Democrats don’t need his vote in Sacramento. He skips over 30 percent of his key votes. And he’s not going to get away with it in Washington.

The candidate implores voters in Merced County to think about it: “Someone who is supported by Gavin Newsom, Alex Padilla and Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles – these people do not support him because they think that he’s a moderate, and he’s going to Washington to be a moderate. They know that when Adam comes around, he’s going to vote like a die-hard Democrat. And that’s why they support him.

Giglio says there is another important aspect of the District 13 race that will lead to a strong national focus on Merced County in the months ahead. He says there’s a legitimate chance to flip a seat for Republicans right in the middle of California.

“Republicans need to flip five seats,” he said. “We’re going to take over the House, and it’s an important seat. We cannot take any seat for granted. You don’t get a competitive open seat in California very often. This is a unique opportunity for Republicans to change seats in central California. And I think this race is going to get a lot of attention, especially after the primary in June where we have a really good showing.

Johnny Tacherra of Fresno was the last Republican candidate for Congress to win Merced County, and it was the year he nearly beat Jim Costa.

Giglio said, “Our message to Merced County is to listen: you voted 4 points in favor of the recall. You’re fed up enough. You are angry with the Democrats. You are upset with politics. And there’s been this stigma that Republicans can’t win. But you no longer have to settle for the least worst option. You know, a lot of people thought they had to settle for Jim Costa because he was going to win anyway. And now they’re thinking, “Well, Adam Gray isn’t so bad.” Well, you don’t have to settle. This is your chance to get better representation. … You will never have to worry about where I stand on the issues that matter. As I have said. Adam skips 30% of key votes and many of the most controversial topics. Things like gun control. Things like abortion. Things like health care. Things like critical race theory. You’ll never have to wonder where I stand on these things. You will know it and you will have confidence in the way I will vote in Washington. »

Giglio’s co-candidate from another party is equally passionate.

“I had to work these minimum wage jobs,” says Arballo, the Democrat. “I’m raising a family right now. I have to budget. My wife and I are by no means rich. We live paycheck to paycheck. It’s time we got that perspective in Washington and not career politicians like Adam Gray, or what we’ve had before. … I’m doing this because I have a vested interest in this race. I have a small business in the central valley. I am raising a family. It’s a personal race for me. I don’t think career politicians who have represented this region in the past understand what it is to have a personal stake in this race. They get comfortable and they forget why they go, whether it’s to Sacramento or Washington, to represent the people, and not to get fat, so to speak, at the expense of the taxpayers.

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