Two Republican incumbent congressmen in adjacent districts are fighting off politically inexperienced challengers who have little in the way of public service records. One incumbent is a certainty to be reelected. The other faces a real challenge.
However, both 21st District Rep. David Valadao of Hanford and 23rd District Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield should be returned to the House of Representatives. They have solid records of understanding and representing the southern San Joaquin Valley.
We only hope that they will be up to the task that looms ahead — reuniting the country after an incredibly divisive presidential election; putting their loyalty to country before their party; and working with Democrats to achieve progress.
Republican farmer Valadao is an unlikely match for the 21st District, which has a dominant Democratic voter registration and Latino population. But a unified Republican Party and anemic Latino voter turnout worked in favor of Valadao’s election, and reelection, to the congressional seat.
This November, he faces in his reelection bid Democrat Emilio Huerta, an attorney and the son of farm labor union icon Dolores Huerta. The UFW’s organizational network and a last-minute infusion of political action committee money to promote Huerta’s campaign promises to give Valadao a vigorous challenge.
Looming large over the race is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, along with Trump’s anti-immigrant positions and controversial speech that Latinos have generally regarded as highly insulting. With the recent disclosure of 11-year-old videotapes in which Trump made lewd comments about women, Valadao has further distanced himself from his party’s presidential candidate.
Although Valadao has done a credible job of representing the interests of Republicans and Democrats in Congress, it is uncertain he will be able to run fast enough to escape Trump’s increasingly dark shadow.
In the safe, Republican 23rd District, incumbent McCarthy should have little trouble defeating Democrat Wendy Reed, a Quartz Hill businesswoman, who manages a wildlife conservancy in the Antelope Valley.
A former legislative aide to retired Congressman Bill Thomas, McCarthy has risen to majority leader, the second most powerful job in the House. He has longstanding loyalty to Trump, serving as a convention delegate. Despite recent videotape revelations and the defection of many Republicans in Congress and elsewhere, McCarthy remains steadfast in his commitment to Trump’s election.
But it’s after the Nov. 8 election that the true character and political courage of Valadao and McCarthy will be tested.
Our government is based on a system of checks and balances between three branches — the executive (president); legislative (Senate and House); and judicial (courts). Voters often provoke conflict by dividing political power between the executive and legislative branches. Compromise and cooperation between political parties is essential for progress.
However, in recent years gridlock has replaced compromise and little progress has been achieved. No doubt this accounts for Americans’ low opinion of Congress and the general disgust that led to Trump’s presidential candidacy.
After Nov. 8, either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump will be president. Then what will Valadao and McCarthy do?
Will they declare — as Republicans did with Obama — to block any and all Clinton initiatives if she is elected? Will they dare attempt to rein in the excesses of an erratic President Trump?
It’s likely the Republican Party will keep control of the House. The question voters should ask: How will Valadao and McCarthy wield that power?