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2022 Primary Preview: California Congressional, June 7
A look at ten key primaries
Seven states are voting this Tuesday, and so we are continuing our preview of 2022 primary elections. We’re taking an in-depth look at key climate elections taking place on June 7 in the drought-and-wildfire-ravaged Golden State, with ten key Congressional races below and state and local races in a second post.
As in many congressional primaries nationally, heavy spending in support of more centrist candidates by corporate super PACs is playing a major role. In California, the Democrat Majority for Israel (DMFI) PAC, which is primarily bankrolled by a fossil-fuel billionaire and (more recently) by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), is investing heavily in several key races.
Most of this Central Valley district, which runs from Modesto to Coalinga, is currently represented by Rep. Josh Harder, who announced he would run in the new 9th district after Rep. Jerry McNerney retired. This created an open race in CA-13, which at D+7 will likely be a safe Dem seat in most years, but could potentially be competitive in 2022. Two Democrats are vying to advance to the general election, likely against one of the three Republicans in the race. Assemblymember Adam Gray has represented much of the district in the legislature since 2012, where he has led the corporate faction of the Assembly Democrats and for a while raised millions as the chair of the Government Organization (GO) Committee, Sacramento’s marquee “juice committee.” In 2020, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon stripped Gray of his GO Chairmanship, in what Gray claimed was retaliation for Gray’s opposition to a state “water grab.” Gray has accumulated the worst environmental voting record among Assembly Democrats, including vocal opposition to a substantial strengthening of California’s climate goals through former state senate leader Kevin de León’s SB 350 in 2015, and simply refusing to vote for a bill called the California Climate Crisis Act as well as abstaining on a bill to fund abandoned oil well cleanup.
Fresno business owner Phil Arballo did not originally launch his campaign for Congress with the most progressive rhetoric or credentials, but has spent months pummeling Gray for his corporate record, releasing multiple ads that call out Gray for his lavish support from Big Oil, his SB 350 opposition, and for siding with Trump on water issues. Consequently, Arballo has been endorsed by CA LCV, Jane Fonda’s Climate PAC, and the Center for Biological Diversity.
With Rep. Jackie Speier retiring from this San Mateo County-based Bay Area seat, this general election is expected to feature two Democrats. Speier has endorsed her former staffer Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, who has a reliably liberal voting record and a conventional background from a political family. The right-wing Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) PAC is supporting Mullin over former San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, who is endorsed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Action, and Friends of the Earth. Burlingame Mayor Emily Beach has the support of several labor unions and womens’ organizations, and is hoping that spending from a centrist veterans PAC will get her into the general election.
CA-16, incumbent Anna Eshoo (D)
Last cycle, Rep. Anna Eshoo, a longtime Pelosi ally who has joined with other Silicon Valley Democrats in trying to steer the House toward an alternative to more stringent antitrust enforcement against Big Tech, fended off a primary challenge from Saratoga City Councilmember Rishi Kumar, who has ties to India’s far-right governing party. Kumar is running again, as are a pair of apparent crypto enthusiasts, Palo Alto Councilmember Greg Tanaka and attorney Ajwang Rading.
CA-22, incumbent David Valadao (R)
The Democrat in the general election in this Bakersfield-based district will be Assemblymember Rudy Salas, the Western States Petroleum Association’s single biggest ally in California’s legislature. The only question is whether Salas will face Rep. David Valadao, one of only 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s second impeachment, or one of two Trumpier Republicans who are challenging Valadao on that basis.
CA-29, incumbent Tony Cardénas (D)
The preliminary round vote total will be the thing to watch in this San Fernando-based district, where the general election will feature Rep. Tony Cárdenas against Green New Deal champion Angelica Dueñas.
CA-32, incumbent Brad Sherman (D)
Rep. Brad Sherman is a sometimes populist, vocally pro-Israel moderate who has gained a reputation as one of crypto’s biggest critics as the chair of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection and Capital Markets. Worryingly, this has led one of Sherman’s primary opponents, Aarika Rhodes, to make a desperate bid for the crypto money to flow to her, though so far Sam Bankman-Fried et al. have not bitten, seemingly committed to keeping folks guessing with more random and wasteful investments. Sherman lives in Porter Ranch, site of the catastrophic Aliso Canyon natural-gas blowout in 2015, but has failed to ensure its shutdown or weaken SoCalGas’s power. As a result, health care and environmental justice advocate Shervin Aazami has raised a decent amount of money and has endorsements from Sunrise LA, Friends of the Earth, and others. Sherman is working hard to ensure that the progressive vote is split so that he faces a Republican opponent in the general.
CA-34, incumbent Jimmy Gomez (D)
Rep. Jimmy Gomez has been a fairly reliable Congressional Progressive Caucus member, but nonetheless came surprisingly close to losing in 2020 to Los Angeles neighborhood council member David Kim. Kim, a Green New Deal champion, is running again, and the rematch will continue through the general election. Gomez has a million-dollar warchest, though.
This is a crowded race for Karen Bass’ seat, but there are four main contenders: State Senator Sydney Kamlager, whose support ranges from LA Supervisor Holly Mitchell to DMFI ($116K); former LA Councilmember Jan Perry, for whom housing is more of a focus; and Young Turks journalist gadfly Michael Shure. DMFI has spent nearly three times as much money ($143K) attacking progressive climate hawk Daniel Lee, endorsed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Sanders-related groups, as he has raised ($51K) for his own campaign.
Safe Climate Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Alan Lowenthal is retiring, and has joined with most prominent California politicians in endorsing Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, a former Republican. Assemblymember Cristina Garcia is also running. Her generally progressive voting record has prompted the United Democracy Project (AIPAC) and DMFI to spend money attacking her, while her erratic and sometimes offensive personal behavior has won her few friends in California politics. Mayor Garcia is betting he can lock up this congressional seat on Tuesday by ensuring a Republican general election opponent.
CA-50, incumbent Scott Peters (D)
Rep. Scott Peters has prided himself on his cozy relationship with the Chamber of Commerce since winning a formerly swing district in 2012. The corporatist, No Labels-backed Peters is an influential member of numerous climate-related caucuses on the Hill. Redistricting has turned this San Diego district into more reliably Democratic terrain, and Peters is hoping to avoid facing Green New Deal champion Kylie Taitano in the general election.
Next up: key California state and local elections.