BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — This June and November, voters in Kern will face a slate of options at the ballot box. 17 News is sitting down with Kern’s candidates so the county can make informed decisions.

We are turning to one of the most competitive races in the nation — the Central Valley’s 22nd congressional district, which includes parts of Kern, Kings and Tulare counties as well as portions of cities such as Bakersfield, Hanford, Tulare, Arvin, Delano and Porterville.

This is a Latino-majority district that leans Democratic in terms of registration. Voters in this district would have voted for Joe Biden in 2020 by a margin of almost 13%. However, Republicans have seen high turnout in this region previously. Incumbent David Valadao (R-Hanford) won this area as a Republican on the same ticket in which the district voted for Biden by about 11%.

Three candidates are hoping to unseat Valadao: Republican Chris Mathys, Republican Adam Medeiros and Democrat Rudy Salas.

A closer look at David Valadao

The son of dairy farmers from Portugal, David Valadao considers himself a true child of the Central Valley.

“I represent the type of people that I feel like I am. I think that’s what congress is all about,” Valadao said. “They call it the House of Representatives, I’m a representative sample of this district.”

The 45-year-old father of three has spent much of his life working for his family farm in Hanford. So unsurprisingly agriculture, he says, was what brought him to politics in 2010, when he was elected to the State Assembly.

Two years later, Valadao was elected to Congress… spending three self-described low-profile terms on Capitol Hill before losing his seat to Democrat TJ Cox in 2018.

At that point, Valadao said he returned to his family farm, unsure if he still had a future in the political field.

“I started getting phone calls from random people who got my home number from friends and got my cell phone number from friends and started complaining about some of the issues they were having that weren’t being addressed,” Valadao said.

That spurred Valadao to run again in 2020, seeking election to the seat he lost just two years prior. This time, the Hanford Congressman took down Cox, as a Republican in a district that voted for Joe Biden by a margin of nearly 11% in the same election.

But then, just days after being sworn back in came the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Soon after, came Valadao’s decision to buck the majority of his party, voting to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the attack, a decision that thrust the once inconspicuous Congressman into the spotlight.

“I don’t look for the national attention so when that happened our phones started blowing up. Every national news organization, every international news organization wanted to interview us,” Valadao said. “I just focused all on local, that’s what my district is, I focus on my district.”

Now, he’s seeking re-election as a Republican in a solidly blue area — a position he’s been in before and a situation he knows well.

“I mean this this obviously the most Democratic seat held by a Republican in the Country and the most Hispanic seat held by a Republican in the country,” Valadao said.

As mentioned, Valadao won as a Republican in a Democrat-majority district in 2020. But after statewide redistricting this fall, the district is now even slightly more blue.

And this time, he’s facing not just push back from the left, but also from his own party, many of whom are still deeply upset about the one impeachment vote.

“When you’re in a district where it’s the reality that you have to get both sides to vote for you, you go into this knowing that at some point you’re going to make everyone mad at you,” he said.

Trump himself is vocal about his wish to oust every House GOP member who voted to impeach him, yet the former President has endorsed a challenger to every House Republican who is running for re-election this year who voted to impeach him except Valadao.

“Like I said earlier this is the most Democratic seat and longshot and so I think this is a seat that even he knows I’m probably the only one who could win it.”

Going forward Valadao says among his top issues are water in the Central Valley and immigration.