Republican Rep. David Valadao infuriated conservatives in California’s Central Valley when he voted to impeach President Donald Trump in the days after the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
But the former president – who’s repeatedly targeted many of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him on a charge of inciting the deadly attack that unsuccessfully attempted to derail congressional certification of President Biden’s 2020 Electoral College victory over Trump – has been hands-off on Valadao, who’s represented California’s 21st Congressional District for most of the past decade.
Valadao is one of two Golden State House Republicans – along with Rep. Young Kim – who face potentially challenging re-elections in the 2022 midterms, with the first test coming Tuesday in California’s primary, where all the candidates regardless of party identification are listed on the same ballot and the top two finishers move on to November’s general election.
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National Republicans view the congressman, who’s running for re-election in a district that Biden carried by double digits two years ago, as their best shot to keep the seat in GOP hands.
Valadao is facing three primary challengers for the renumbered and slightly redrawn district – fellow Republicans Chris Mathys, a former Fresno city councilman, and King County school board member Adam Medeiros. Also running is Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who has represented much of the congressional district for the last decade in the state legislature in Sacramento.
Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, six are running for re-election this year, but Valadao’s race is the only one where the former president hasn’t endorsed a challenger.
“I do think Valadao’s a little bit different than the others. He hasn’t doubled or tripled down [on impeachment]. All the other ones are going out and making hay, elongating the story. Valadao’s stayed rather quiet and subdued,” a source close to Trump’s political orbit told Fox News.
“There hasn’t been a credible challenger making noise either. So it was easy to move on from that race and not really give it much attention,” explained the source, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.
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Even without facing Trump’s ire, national Republicans were concerned enough regarding Valadao’s prospects of making the November ballot that they lent a helping hand. The Congressional Leadership Fund – the top super PAC that backs House Republicans and is aligned with GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy – spent nearly $800,000 to take aim at Mathys, with a last-minute ad criticizing him as “dangerously liberal.”
The top pro-House Democrats outside group also jumped into the fight. The House Majority PAC, which is tied to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been running ads on TV and digital spotlighting Valadao’s impeachment vote and calling Mathys “a true conservative” and “100% pro-Trump and proud.”
Valadao has a history of grabbing independent voters and even some crossover Democrats in his electoral victories. But Democrats are hoping that Salas stems some of those crossover votes and Mathys eats into Valadao’s support on the right, potentially shutting the incumbent out of the general election.
In the Orange County based 39th Congressional District, Kim defeated Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros – one of four House pickups Republicans made in the state last cycle. Kim, one of only three Korean American women serving in Congress, was a top GOP recruit in the 2020 election.
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But her district was dramatically redrawn in the once-in-a-decade congressional redistricting process, and many of the constituents in the new district are new to the incumbent. Biden carried the seat by two-points in the 2020 election.
Kim’s facing primary challenges from Republican Greg Raths – a councilman in Mission Viejo and a Trump fanatic – and Democratic candidate Asif Mahmood, a physician.
The Congressional Leadership Fund has spent nearly $1 million to run spots to boost Kim.
While the Democrats won the White House and took control of the Senate in the 2020 elections, House Republicans defied expectations and took a big bite out of the Democrats’ House majority. And the four seats the GOP flipped from red to blue in the Golden State were a key part of that success. As Republicans aim to win the House majority in November, California will once again be a major congressional battlefield.