With Democrats soon to be in control of the U.S. House, the future of Tulare’s favorite son is uncertain when it comes to his role in Washington DC.
Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) doesn’t seem worried, though, after cruising to victory by more than 10 points in one of the nation’s most closely watched, expensive races.
In fact, Nunes had a few words for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who is expected to get her old job back.
“Going back to Washington is going to be quite interesting,” Nunes said. “Although you’ve seen speeches done by former Speaker Pelosi, she doesn’t have the votes. She may have enough Democrats elected but there are Democrats all over the country who have said they aren’t going to vote for her.”
Pelosi brushed off Nunes’ claims, insisting she is the “best person” for the House Speaker and “confident” that she will pick up the speaker’s gavel once more, despite grumblings from some of the Democratic caucus’ more progressive members.
Even Nunes’ ally President Trump agrees that Pelosi “deserves” to be named the new House Speaker, he told the Minority Leader late Tuesday.
A new role for Nunes
The GOP loss means that the Tulare-native will be out as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
This brought some comfort to District 22 challenger Andrew Janz.
“The most important takeaway from tonight is the fact that Devin Nunes is no longer going to be the House Intelligence Committee chairman,” Janz told a roomful of energetic supporters Tuesday night at the Falls Event Center in Fresno.
During his election night event, Janz never directly alluded to the unfavorable numbers looming on the jumbo-sized projection above him, but the sentiment was clear: Janz may have lost a historic $20 million battle, but Democrats are winning the war.
“We’re gonna have a new Congress starting on Jan. 3, and we need to lay the groundwork for a new administration come 2020,” Janz said.
On this issue, Nunes agreed with Janz. He expects the newly Democratic-controlled House to have a contentious relationship with the Trump Administration.
“They’re going to resist, they’re going to continue to obstruct, they’re probably going to continue to protest,” Nunes said. “At the end of the day, that doesn’t do anything for America and it sure doesn’t do anything for the Valley.”
And while Democrats took control of the House, Nunes said voters made a clear statement on Tuesday with the GOP extending its control of the Senate.
“We haven’t had this many Senate seats in a long, long time,” he said. “It will be interesting to see exactly what it is they’re going to do because they have not laid out plans as to what they’re going to do for this country.”
On Tuesday, the GOP won 51 Senate seats with three seats still to be decided. The GOP controlled 54 Senate seats as recently in the 114th Congress (2015-2017) and 55 seats in the 109th Congress (2005-07).
Life in the minority
Nunes will continue to serve on the US Intelligence Committee and Committee on Ways and Means, said Jack Langer, Nunes’ communications director
Back at home, Langer says constituents can expect business as usual.
“Rep. Nunes’ responsibility to his constituents is not going to change at all,” he said.
Ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is set to replace Nunes as Intelligence Committee chairman, which could dramatically reduce Nunes’ influence over the House’s probe into Russian meddling during the 2016 election.
Schiff previously called on Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation in March 2017, as a result of Nunes’ role in the Trump transition team.
“We must refocus the committee on conducting serious oversight of the Intelligence Community and the Trump Administration’s direction to the intelligence agencies we oversee,” Schiff said. “Another top priority will be to restore bipartisan comity to the committee, which helps to ensure effective oversight and a cooperative and constructive relationship with the agencies under our jurisdiction.”
Janz and the uphill race
While Janz never really threatened Nunes, Tuesday’s results were the first time that Nunes polled under 60 percent in a general election.
“Unfortunately for the resistance groups that poured in millions of dollars to unseat Rep. Nunes and the media outlets that acted as their mouthpieces, the people of California’s 22nd District had the final say,” Langer said. “We are honored that they voted convincingly for Rep. Nunes to continue serving them.”
No media outlet or polling firm predicted Janz would win the race.
Janz has yet to directly acknowledge his handed defeat, his election night remarks amounted to a concession speech.
“We ran one of the best campaigns in the country, in a district nobody thought we had a chance of winning,” Janz said. “But I think we proved a lot of people wrong. We showed Democrats, Independents and Republicans could come together in Trump Country to work to make the Valley a better place.”
Heather Grevin, Janz’s campaign manager, said the failed candidate won’t have much time to lick his wounds.
“Janz used every shred of vacation time during his campaign. He’s due back at the (Fresno District Attorney’s Office) on Thursday to tend to his massive caseload,” Grevin said. “That’s what happens when you’re not independently wealthy and part of the ruling class like Devin Nunes.”
Democrats will look to 2020 and another shot to knock off Nunes, this time presumably with Trump on the ballot.
“The momentum we’ve built over the past 19 months isn’t going anywhere. It’s only going to grow,” Grevin said.
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