BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Heading into the 2022 election cycle, the race for the Central Valley’s 22nd congressional seat is considered one of the biggest toss-ups, not just in California, but in the nation.
After redistricting slightly boosted the Democrat majority in David Valadao’s district, he’s entering the 2022 race in a difficult spot — a Republican looking to be sent to Washington by voters within blue lines.
“It is a Democrat-leaning district, but in the past, Republican turnout in the district has been very high and surpassed Democratic turnout,” Democratic political analyst Neel Sannappa said.
As Sannappa pointed out, Valadao has been in this position before. In 2020, he won back his seat from a Democrat during an election in which voters in his district picked Joe Biden by a margin of 10.9%.
Therefore, Sannappa said, the new blue registration boost it isn’t necessarily an automatic victory for his Democratic challenger Rudy Salas.
But there is another factor that has the potential to impact the race: Valadao’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump after Jan. 6.
Of the House Republicans who voted to impeach the former President, Trump has endorsed a 2022 challenger to every one of them except Valadao.
But, the Hanford Congressman is still facing pushback from those within his own party.
In fact, his vote to impeach was a catalyst for two Republicans to run against him.
That poses the question: is there a chance Valadao could be voted out in the primary election and not even make it on the November ballot?
“That is very possible and I think that only goes to help Rudy Salas,” Sannappa said.
Sannappa said it’s possible Democratic voters in June could cast a ballot for Salas, while Republicans could throw their support behind the candidates further to the right.
Republican political analyst Cathy Abernathy said the impeachment vote won’t be as big of a factor in the primary as Valadao’s track record representing the Valley on Capitol Hill.
“The decision for those voters is, ‘are you going to put someone in there even in the general that maybe can’t beat a Democrat?'” Abernathy said. “I think that you have to run your strongest candidate.”
Valadao said every decision he’s taken, he feels like he can defend.
“People are making decisions based off of one vote when they can look back on a career of me doing the best for the constituents,” Valadao said. “I mean that’s a decision they have to make for themselves.”