Democrats targeting two San Joaquin Valley, California, congressional incumbents are placing their bets on Donald Trump.
In a preview of coming campaign attractions, the challengers to Reps. Jeff Denham of Turlock and David Valadao of Hanford joined with Democratic strategists Thursday in trying to wrap Trump around the necks of their Republican opponents.
“Like most Californians, I’m deeply offended by Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric,” said farmer Michael Eggman, who is challenging Denham. “We’re going to send Trump Republicans like Denham packing.”
Emilio Huerta, who is challenging Valadao, joined in the effort, coordinated by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“We just can’t go back to the time that Latinos were blamed for all our country’s woes,” Huerta said.
Neither Denham nor Valadao has yet endorsed Trump. But with the flamboyant New York businessman and reality TV star on the verge of securing the Republican presidential nomination, all GOP candidates will face the endorsement question – perhaps many times over.
“Political operatives in Washington will strategize, and prospective candidates will posture,” Valadao’s campaign spokesperson Cole Rojewski said. “However, the (congressional) district needs a leader who fights for the Central Valley, regardless of who ultimately sits in the Oval Office.”
Denham, while saying he will support whoever his fellow Republicans nominate, also dismissed the possibility that a Trump candidacy could harm his own chances.
“I have won by big margins...no matter who is on top of the ticket, because I represent the views that are important to people at home,” Denham said in an interview. “I am a Republican in California who wins the Hispanic vote, and I expect to continue to do so.”
The 10th Congressional District currently represented by Denham includes some 309,000 residents identified as Hispanic or Latino, 42 percent of the district’s total population. Hispanics account for about 72 percent of the residents of the 21st Congressional District now represented by Valadao.
These constituents, and others, can expect if Trump wins the Republican nomination to be reminded many times in coming months about the 69-year-old mogul’s repeated call for a wall separating the United States and Mexico, among other demands.
Trump’s campaign site says that unless Mexico pays for the proposed wall, he would impound certain remittance payments, increase visa and border-crossing fees and consider tariff hikes affecting Mexico’s $300 billion-plus worth of annual exports to the United States.
“We will not be taken advantage of any more,” the Trump campaign site asserts.
The bilingual press call Thursday was part of the Democrats’ broader campaign to paint Denham and Valadao as vulnerable, though both enjoy the myriad advantages of incumbency.
Denham has stockpiled $2.4 million in his campaign treasury as of March 31, while Eggman has about $370,000 on hand. A second Democrat, Mike Barkley, had but $525 on hand. In 2014, Denham beat Eggman handily by eight percentage points.
Valadao has $1.1 million available, well above Huerta’s $116,000. Two other Democratic contenders, Daniel Parra and Connie Perez, lag well behind.
Trump himself is expected to campaign somewhere in the Valley prior to California’s June 7 primary.
The foray into a region rich with Republican voters will apparently give Trump his first personal look at the Valley since an aborted Fresno-area golf course development in 2007.
A Fox News poll released last Friday showed Trump supported by 49 percent of the state’s likely Republican primary voters, while 22 percent supported Cruz and 20 percent backed Kasich.
The same poll, though, also hinted at Trump’s political vulnerabilities that cause some party strategists to worry about collateral political damage. Seventeen percent of likely Republican primary voters said they would consider supporting a third-party candidate if the general election face-off is between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
An additional 7 percent said they would stay home rather than vote for Trump in November.