Republicans line up to challenge Democrat Harder for Congress next year

Freshman Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, is facing four Republican challengers as well as a Democratic one in his campaign for re-election in 2020.

San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott was the latest Republican to enter the race. He joins former Turlock Councilman and Planning Commission member Ted Howze, Ceres construction company president Charles Dossett and San Joaquin County resident Marla Sousa Livengood, who is the regulatory affairs manager for the California Strawberry Commission, according to her campaign website.

One Republican who is not running is Jeff Denham, who served in the House of Representatives for eight years before losing in a close race to Harder in the November 2018 election. Denham has joined the global law firm K&L Gates as a government affairs counselor in Washington, D.C. He confirmed he is not running for his old seat.

Democrat and Manteca resident Mike Barkley also is in the race. He has been a candidate for the congressional seat since the 2012 election. District 10 encompasses Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County, including Tracy, Manteca, Ripon and Escalon.

University of the Pacific political scientist Keith Smith said it’s not unusual to have this many candidates in the race now. The March primary is about nine months away. (California is moving its primary from June to March in 2020 in an attempt to increase its influence in the presidential election.)

Smith said the top two District 10 candidates in the March primary, regardless of political party, move on to face each other in the November election. He said Republicans want to know whether Harder’s victory in 2018 will stand up over time.

“This next election will set the tone for the next decade,” Smith said. “If Harder can easily win re-election, Republicans won’t challenge him.” But if Harder narrowly prevails in 2020, he can expect more Republican challengers.