Republican Rep. Devin Nunes resigned in the midst of his term to become the CEO of former President Donald Trump’s new media firm, and voters in California’s broad agricultural belt will fill the vacancy on Tuesday.
The special election in the Republican-leaning 22nd Congressional District has been virtually overlooked as national Democrats and Republicans focus their attention on the midterm elections that will decide control of Congress in 2023, which are scheduled for November.
The seat in the state’s Central Valley, which is commonly referred to as the “salad bowl of the country” because of its agricultural productivity, is projected to remain in the hands of Republicans.
Nunes’ abrupt retirement from Congress in January put his former constituents in an unusual situation: the winner of the race would spend just a few months in Congress, and the district will be eliminated by new congressional borders the following year.
Mail-in voting began last month, and preliminary results indicate that participation will be low. Campaigns say people they contact are sometimes startled to learn that an election is taking place because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the flu, or that Nunes, a key Trump supporter while in Congress, has resigned.
If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff between the top two finishers will be held on June 7, the same day as the statewide primary election.
There are six candidates on the ballot – four Republicans and two Democrats – who are running for the position. Because of the possibility of a runoff, there is a chance that two Republicans may compete for the seat in June.
“Anything is conceivable at this time,” said Connie Conway, a former county supervisor who is now a Republican leader in the state Assembly and a Trump administration appointment. She is the most well-known of the candidates, having been appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017.
When Nunes was re-elected in November 2020, he had a year remaining on his tenure and decided to join the Trump Media & Technology Group. Nunes is 48 years old and lives in California. The startup thinks that its social media network will be able to compete with rivals like as Twitter and Facebook, who disabled the former president’s accounts after the tragic assault of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6.
Among the other Republican candidates are former Navy combat pilot Matt Stoll, a small business owner who previously ran unsuccessfully for Congress in a neighbouring district in 2018 and briefly for U.S. Senate; Michael Maher, a Navy veteran and former FBI special agent; and Michael Maher, a Navy veteran and former FBI special agent
Eric Garcia, a Marine and Iraq War veteran, and Lourin Hubbard, a manager for the state Department of Water Resources, are the Democratic candidates running for governor.
There are a variety of agendas at play. Conway, if elected, intends to spend just the remaining time left on Nunes’ tenure in Congress. Garcia, Maher, and Stoll, on the other hand, are running in the June statewide primary in a newly created district — the 21st — that includes a portion of Nunes’ home district, which they want to defeat. They will be running against Democratic Rep. Jim Costa in that campaign, and it is clear that they are hoping to use a victory in Nunes’ former stomping grounds as a springboard to capturing the district as a whole.
A runoff would be politically difficult for Garcia, Maher, and Stoll if they were to participate. The name of a candidate would wind up appearing twice on the June ballot, first in a runoff for the empty Nunes seat and a second time in an entirely new House district for the term that begins in 2023 if that were to happen. Voters might easily get confused if they see the same name again.
Money has been scarce in the race to replace Nunes because there is so little at risk, and as a consequence, advertising has been inconsistent.
Garcia, for example, collected more than $200,000 but had just $1,700 in his bank account by the middle of March, according to federal fundraising records. Heng had raised $215,000 and had around $60,000 in cash on hand at the time of the interview. However, she amassed a backlog of $95,000 in unpaid expenses, ultimately placing her campaign in the red financially.
In addition, the decision will have little impact on the balance of power on Capitol Hill, where Democrats control a tiny plurality of seats.
The battle, which is expected to get minimal attention, takes place in a politically tough atmosphere for Democratic members of Congress. Many Americans, according to polls, are dissatisfied with the way the nation is taking, and President Joe Biden’s support ratings have been slipping.
While the race for the empty Nunes seat has been mostly forgotten in the rest of the country, California is at the heart of the battle for the House of Representatives. On the June ballot, there are around a half-dozen very contested districts to choose from. The state of California is an anomaly in terms of competitive races, since Democrats hold every statewide position, control the state legislature, and maintain a 42-10 edge in the congressional delegation.
Nationally, 30 Democrats and 15 Republicans are not running for reelection in the House of Representatives this year. In addition, there are 5 vacancies in the House of Representatives due to resignations or deaths.