A special US House election will fulfill the term of Trump ally Nunes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The resignation of former U.S. Representative from California Devin Nunes as head of Donald Trump’s media company has left his voters with a weird special election: Voters will choose someone to complete the remaining months of his term in a district that will disappear next year.

Next month’s election in the state’s Republican-leaning 22nd District in the Central Valley is largely an afterthought as Republicans and National Democrats focus on the November election that will determine control of Congress. in 2023.

About half a dozen of the major House races are held in California. Such contests are rare in the liberal-minded state, where Democrats hold all statewide positions, dominate in the Legislature and have a 42-10 advantage in the congressional delegation. .

Among the key competitions: Republican Representative Mike Garcia is defending the seat he won by a few hundred votes in a Democratic-leaning neighborhood north of Los Angeles; Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, star of the party’s progressive wing, runs in a new coastal district in Orange County; and Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, a Korean immigrant, is seeking a second term in another Orange County district with a slight Democratic edge that includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese American community.

Nationally, Democrats face obstacles to retaining control of the House and Senate. The party in the White House typically loses seats in midterm elections. Polls show that many Americans are unhappy with the country’s direction. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted and there is friction between the progressive and establishment wings of the party.

Nunes, 48, was comfortably re-elected in 2020 and was not widely seen as someone likely to leave office before the next election. But the Trump loyalist quit in December to join the Trump Media & Technology Group. The company hopes its social media platform will rival rivals like Twitter and Facebook, which blocked the former president’s accounts after the deadly storming of the US Capitol on January 6.

There are half a dozen candidates vying to replace Nunes. Early voting has begun for the race which ends on April 5. If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff between the top two will coincide with the statewide primary election on June 7.

Candidates face the challenge of garnering attention at a time when many voters have shrugged off the country’s corrosive politics while others may be suffering from voter fatigue after Democratic Gov. Gavin’s failed recall election Newsom last year. Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic are making headlines.

A runoff could prove even more politically tricky, after the state rearranged district boundaries to account for population shifts in the decennial census that saw California lose a congressional seat for the first times.

The current Nunes district will be dismantled and merged into new headquarters. That means it’s possible a candidate could end up appearing twice on the June ballot — once in a runoff for Nunes’ vacant seat and a second time in a new House district for the term that begins in 2023.

Republican candidate Michael Maher is on the ballot for the vacant seat and plans to run in the primary for a full term in a new district, the 21st, which encompasses a slice of former Nunes territory.

The political environment is unstable: The Navy veteran and former FBI special agent says some of the voters he met didn’t know Nunes had quit. And if Maher ends up in a runoff, he wonders if asking people to vote for him twice might leave suspicion of shenanigans.

“It’s quite weird and it’s problematic,” he said.

Maher, a first-time candidate, is a lifelong Republican, but he sees himself in the mold of former Arizona senator John McCain, who was seen as a maverick willing to work beyond the party lines.

Winning the special election could be a springboard to November in a new district, helping to boost name recognition and congressional experience, even in a truncated term lasting only until the end of the year.

GOP hopeful Elizabeth Heng, who lost a congressional race in a neighboring district in 2018 and briefly ran for the U.S. Senate, hopes a victory in the Nunes district would give her the edge for a full term in the new 13th District, which has a tilt Democratic party but includes many voters who saw its name on the ballot four years ago.

She said similar issues – including water for orchards and farms, rising gasoline and food prices, impatience with long-running pandemic mandates and the economy – ran through the valley. central, sometimes called the salad bowl of the country because of its vast agricultural production.

“When you go to the grocery store and milk, beef, chicken and vegetables are so expensive right now, people get so frustrated,” said Heng, 37, a technical executive and former staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Two other Republicans are on the ballot: former Navy fighter pilot Matt Stoll and former lawmaker Connie Conway, both small-business owners. Democrats on the ballot are Eric Garcia, a Navy and Iraq War veteran, and Lourin Hubbard, a director of the state Department of Water Resources.

Both Democrats support universal health care and immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for people who entered the United States illegally, while Republicans all share similar conservative policy stances, according to their websites. .

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