BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — This year, the Central Valley is home to one of the most competitive and consequential Congressional districts in the nation. Tuesday’s primary results are not finalized yet, but early signs point to the race as being a showdown between Democrats and Republicans in Washington come November’s General Election.
In the Latino-majority 22nd Congressional district, which includes parts of Kern, Kings and Tulare counties, Democrats out-register Republicans by about 16%. Despite the solid Democratic advantage, it’s been a highly-contentious district — flipping from red to blue in 2018 to back to red in 2020, when voters elected Republican David Valadao (R-Hanford) to Congress on the same ticket they voted for Joe Biden by a margin of about 13%.
Ballots from Tuesday’s Primary Election are still being counted in Kern.
The Associated Press called that Democratic five-term Bakersfield Assemblyman Rudy Salas will move on to the General Election in November. We still don’t know who he will face, but as of now, it appears to be the Republican incumbent Valadao, which would likely prompt a national high-stakes clash of the cash.
“I’m certain that both candidates from both parties will be well-funded [in the General Election],” Republican political analyst Cathy Abernathy said.
That wasn’t the case in the primary — with Valadao at least initially blowing Salas out of the water. As of mid-May, Valadao raked in over two million dollars this election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission. Salas sits at just under 600 thousand.
“It is a battleground district for the Republican party, they understand that and so if they want to have a majority, they need to make sure they protect Valadao’s seat,” Democratic political analyst Neel Sannappa said, “So that’s why he’s able to raise money right now.”
Both Abernathy and Sannappa said Salas’ primary victory as the only Democratic candidate in the blue-leaning district was almost a given. Cash, they said, wasn’t a necessity for the Bakersfield Assemblyman in the primary.
“He can pretty much just cruise through this primary, he doesn’t really need to run a strong campaign right now’,” Sannappa said.
But Analysts say if it is Salas and Valadao on the general election ticket, the lead up to November will be a whole different story.
“You have to pay the bills to get your word out,” Abernathy said.
On the local level, in a district where turnout has been diminutive, money could play a key role in simply getting voters to the polls.
“It does play a significant role because we need to have folks on the ground knocking doors, we need mail sent,” Sannappa said.
On the national level, with the district considered a toss-up and control of Congress on the line, both parties appear poised to throw money at the ultra-competitive district.
We already started to see this play out right before the primary, where Super PACs closely linked to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy flooded Bakersfield’s TV market with television advertisements and funds.
And those big bucks are only expected to grow come November.