Rep. David Valadao wins reelection in endangered Central Valley congressional seat

After defeating Rudy Salas, the Democratic state Assemblyman from Central Valley, David Valadao (Republican Central Valley Rep.) nearly lost his bid to impeach Donald Trump’s campaign.

Although official results may take longer, the Associated Press called Monday’s race. The size of the GOP’s majority will be determined by Valadao’s win and the two remaining congressional races in California, after the House was tipped to Republicans last Wednesday.

Valadao released a statement Monday night saying that he was humbled once more by the Central Valley’s faith and support. Rudy Salas deserves my praises for his strong campaign and dedication to the community at large in the state Assembly.

Valadao also thanked volunteers, campaign workers, and all those still working to count the ballots. “To Kern, Kings, and Tulare county election workers — I appreciate you hard work over these past few weeks to ensure that every vote was counted accurately and fairly.”

Long considered a tossup, the race for California’s 22nd Congressional District was long in doubt. There, voters voted for Joe Biden in 2020 over President Trump. This made Valadao the most vulnerable GOP incumbent in the country.

Salas, 45 years old, faced the same challenges as all other Democrats in the nation: high gas prices, and concerns about crime. These were the main focus of an attack ad campaign against him.

Democrats have long attempted to recruit Salas to challenge Valadao. Salas, the first Latino elected to the Bakersfield City Council, served five terms in the Assembly before being removed. Salas’ campaign didn’t respond Monday night to a request for comment.

Salas highlighted his family’s farmworker heritage in his campaign. He spent his childhood summers working in the fields with his father. Valadao, who also owns a small dairy farm, has strong agricultural skills. Both men praised their efforts to improve water resources in the area, which is a major concern in rural areas.

Valadao was the first to be elected to Congress in 2012. Since then, Democrats have been targeting him as a constant target. Democrats hold a significant registration advantage in his district. Valadao, a moderate Republican, had stressed his support for immigration reform and he was breaking with his party. Despite his defeat, Democrats were able to elect him in the blue wave in 2018, but Valadao won the seat again in 2020.

However, he didn’t have the time to enjoy the victory’s glow. He watched the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol from his Hanford home, where he was quarantined with COVID-19, and voted for President Trump’s impeachment.

The right faced a swift backlash. Two Republicans entered the congressional race citing Valadao’s impeachment vote to be their main motivator. Trump supported all pro-impeachment Republicans seeking reelection but he was silent during the Valadao primary.

At the request of Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader and a Bakersfield native, Trump decided to stay out of the race in California’s 22nd District. McCarthy convinced Trump that Valadao, due to the Democratic tilt in the district’s election, was the only Republican capable of keeping that seat. The June primary saw Valadao’s challengers split votes, which allowed him to narrowly advance to general election.

The fallout for House Republicans who supported impeachment was evident in Valadao’s struggles with base. Four of the 10 opted to retire, rather than running again. The primary was won by a Trump-backed opponent, and four others lost, including Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney. Only Valadao, and Rep. Dan Newhouse from Washington will remain in the House.