Protesters lined his streets.
Strangers and members of the media knocked on his Tulare door and the doors of his family and friends.
Billboards went up with his photo front and center.
Vandals defaced his signs with Russian symbols.
Some national prognosticators switched his seat representing California’s 22nd congressional district to “likely Republican” from “safe Republican.”
But numbers from June 5’s primary election showed Tulare’s favorite son and eight-time incumbent U.S. Congressman Devin Nunes racking up more votes than his five competitors — combined.
Nunes: Critics helped strengthen campaign
Now, Nunes moves on to a November race against a Democrat, Redwood High School graduate Andrew Janz, in a district that hasn’t voted blue since its lines were redrawn in 2003.
Nunes’ response to his critics after that commanding Election Night performance: “Thank you.”
It’s not often a political heavyweight such as Nunes thanks people who criticized him, but he says his base has never been stronger because of local and national attacks on him.
Nunes blames the media, local and national outlets, for giving Democrats false hope that an anti-President Trump wave could unseat him.
In an interview with the Times-Delta Media Group after the June 5 primary election, Nunes credited his constituents for being smart enough to look past “fake news.”
Nunes points to erroneous polls that said he would struggle to break 50 percent after nationwide controversy around his handling of a probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“It’s scary what the media will do to create a massive fake news story,” Nunes told the Times-Delta. “It has to be factual, and these fake news stories leading up to the primary were nothing but attacks. I enjoyed it. The stronger the attack, the more support we had.”
‘We didn’t have to spend anything’
After three critical billboards went up along Highway 99 near Fresno, he got calls from people saying they’d “seen his ads,” he said.
Nunes didn’t advertise for the primary.
His response was simple: “We didn’t have to spend anything.”
Instead, his campaign handed out thousands of yard signs, as he does every two years.
“The media has no shame. Do they live in ‘The Twilight Zone’?” Nunes said.
“(Democrats) got had.”
Nunes took in more than 58 percent of the total vote. Janz, a Fresno County prosecutor, pulled most of the Valley Democrats together and carried 32 percent of the vote.
In the June 8 primary election, Nunes tallied around 55,000 votes. In the 2014 primary, he got 60,500 votes.
Voter turnout hovered around 25 percent for the 2018 primary in District 22. In 2014, it was 31 percent.
Nunes vs. Janz
Following the June 5 results, Janz challenged Nunes to a debate and said he didn’t want this to be about blue or red.
“This victory is not about a victory for Democrats or progressives or liberals,” Janz said. “This is really a victory for our entire community and a victory for our entire nation because this race isn’t about Republican versus Democrat. It’s not red versus blue. This race is about the future of the Central Valley.”
In Janz, Nunes is poised to run against his first credible General Election candidate. Nunes did face a bruising primary campaign against fellow Republican Jim Patterson in 2002.
Janz’s strong resume may not matter, though. Of the more than 347,000 voters in District 22, at least 147,000 are registered Republican. Democrats come in second with 111,000-plus voters here.
“I am a well-known conservative Republican in a conservative Republican district,” he said. “We are going to go hard, as we always do, but I also have an obligation to get things done in Congress. We have the first chance in a long time to get something done.”
For Nunes, it starts with immigration and he wants to get a deal done soon.
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