The resignation of former U.S. Representative from California Devin Nunes to run Donald Trump’s media company has left his former constituents with a strange special election: Voters will select someone to complete the remaining months of his term in a district that will disappear next year. anus.
Next month’s election in the Republican-leaning 22nd District in the state’s Central Valley is largely an afterthought as national Republicans and Democrats focus on the November election that will determine control of Congress in 2023.
About half a dozen of the key house races are in California. Such contests are a rarity in the liberal-minded state, where Democrats hold every statewide office, dominate the legislature and hold a 42-10 lead in the congressional delegation.
Among the top races: Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is defending the seat he won by a few hundred votes in a Democratic-leaning district north of Los Angeles; Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, is running in a new waterfront district in Orange County; and Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, a Korean immigrant, is seeking to win a second term in another Orange County district with a slight Democratic lead that includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese American community.
Nationally, Democrats face obstacles in retaining control of the House and Senate. The party in the White House typically loses seats in midterm elections. Polls show that many Americans are unhappy with the direction of the country. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have been falling, and there is friction between the progressive and established wings of the party.
Nunes, 48, was comfortably re-elected in 2020 and was not seen as someone who could leave office before the next election. But the Trump loyalist resigned in December to join the Trump Media & Technology Group. The company hopes its social media platform will compete with competitors like Twitter and Facebook, which blocked the former president’s accounts after the deadly assault on the US Capitol on January 6.
There are half a dozen candidates running to replace Nunes. Early voting has begun for the race that concludes on April 5. If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff between the top two places will coincide with the statewide primary election on June 7.
The candidates face the challenge of attracting attention at a time when many voters have disengaged from the nation’s corrosive politics, while others may be suffering from electoral fatigue after last year’s unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial recall election. Gavin Newson. Meanwhile, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic dominate the headlines.
A runoff could prove even more complicated politically, after the state reshuffled district lines to account for population changes in the once-a-decade census that saw California lose a congressional seat for the first time. .
The existing Nunes district will be split and merged into new seats. That means it’s possible a candidate could end up appearing on the June ballot twice: once in a runoff for the vacant Nunes seat and a second time in a new House district for the term beginning in 2023.
Republican candidate Michael Maher is on the ballot for the vacant seat and plans to run in the primary for a full term in a new district, the 21st, that encompasses a slab of old Nunes territory.
The political environment is unstable: The Navy veteran and former FBI special agent says some of the voters he has met didn’t know Nunes resigned. And if Maher ends up in a runoff, she wonders if asking people to vote for him twice might leave some suspicious of mischief.
“It’s quite peculiar and problematic,” he said.
Maher, a first-time candidate, is a lifelong Republican but sees himself in the mold of former Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was seen as a maverick willing to work across party lines.
Winning the special election could be a springboard into November in a new district, helping build name recognition and congressional experience, even in a truncated term that will last only through the end of the year.
Republican challenger Elizabeth Heng, who lost a run for Congress in a neighboring district in 2018 and ran briefly for the US Senate, hopes a victory in the Nunes district will give her a full-term advantage. in the new 13th district, which has a Democratic party. tilt but includes many voters who saw her name on the ballot four years ago.
She said similar issues, including water for orchards and farms, rising gas and food prices, impatience with long-running pandemic mandates and the economy, run through the Central Valley, sometimes called the salad bowl of the nation due to its vast agricultural production.
“When you go to the supermarket and milk, beef, chicken and vegetables are so expensive right now, people get very frustrated,” said Heng, 37, a tech executive and former Committee staffer. of Foreign Affairs of the Chamber.
Two other Republicans are on the ballot: former Navy fighter pilot Matt Stoll and former lawmaker Connie Conway, both small business owners. The Democrats on the ballot are Eric Garcia, a Marine and Iraq War veteran, and Lourin Hubbard, manager of the state Department of Water Resources.
Both Democrats support universal health care and immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for people who entered the US illegally, while the Republicans share similar conservative political positions, their websites said.