The contentious 2018 midterms may feel like they just happened — but if Tulare’s controversial Congressman Devin Nunes thought he could take a breather after his narrow November election win and relax, he needs to think again.
Earlier this week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named Nunes’ district as one of the 33 Republican and open congressional seats they will target during the 2020 campaign.
Nunes isn’t shocked, though.
“Not much of a surprise here,” said Jilian Plank, Nunes’ chief of staff. “The Democrats have long wanted to replace Rep. Nunes with a left-winger who will get with their program, particularly their mania for directing water to fish instead of families and farmers.”
Nunes’ seat is just one of two California districts on the hit list. The other belongs to Duncan D. Hunter of San Diego County. Hunter is facing federal charges that he used campaign funds for personal use.
In 2018, DCCC targeted 10 GOP congressmen in California. Only three — Nunes, Hunter and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Sacramento) — retained their seats. Two Valley congressmen — David Valadao (Hanford) and Jeff Denham (Modesto) — lost their seats.
Nunes’ 22nd Congressional District saw a surprisingly tight race in 2018, with Fresno prosecutor and Redwood High School graduate Andrew Janz losing by 5 percentage points, the closest race in Nunes’ 16-year career. In past elections, Nunes won by 20-30 percentage point margins.
Janz spent more than $9 million in his failed campaign to unseat Nunes. While Janz never really threatened Nunes, the 2018 results were the first time that Nunes polled under 60 percent in a general election.
For his part, Nunes spent much of 2018 campaigning against perceived media bias and a steady drumbeat of ethical lapse allegations, including:
- An audiotape of Nunes arguing that Republicans needed to retain control of the House of Representatives to protect President Donald Trump.
- Using campaign funds on nearly $15,000 worth of Boston Celtic tickets.
- Using the same campaign fund on more than $40,000 in trips and meals to Las Vegas.
- Deliberately omitting information about his investments in a Napa County winery.
- Allegations from Janz that a member of Nunes’ family disrupted a campaign video shoot.
- The release of more FBI documents that further weakened the now widely discredited Nunes Memo.
- Nunes’ unflattering war with the Fresno Bee, which he accuses of unfair reporting and “left-wing” bias.
- A lawsuit filed by Tulare County farmer Paul Buxman asking a court to remove “farmer” from his description on California ballots
- A damning Esquire piece that alleged Nunes’ family dairy in Iowa depended on undocumented workers.
So who could Nunes face in a 2020 election? Janz has shown no indication that he was thinking of running again. Earlier this month, he told the Times-Delta/Advance-Register he had no plans to run again.
He’s also told people he’s not ruling it out.
Janz’s campaign people haven’t responded to requests for comment.
In addition to Nunes and Hunter in California, the DCCC has also targeted such high-profile Republicans as Rep. Steve King (Iowa), whose recent comments defending “white supremacy” were condemned by members of his own party and Rep. Chris Collins (New York), who is facing charges of insider stock trading violations.
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