Kevin Lincoln viewed as GOP’s “dream candidate” to take on Harder

Lincoln’s candidacy is bound to bring national attention to the race as the GOP seeks to flip the 9th District and strengthen its lead in the House.

Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln’s infant bid for Congress is picking up steam nationally as a serious threat to unseat Rep. Josh Harder (D–Tracy) next year. 

With Lincoln entering the race, The Cook Political Report – an independent, non-partisan newsletter that analyzes elections and campaigns – now expects the race for the 9th Congressional District to be a competitive one. 


The backstory: Lincoln entered the race this week with the backing of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–Bakersfield). 

  • Three years ago, Lincoln defeated former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs by 12 points. Tubbs had been popular among progressive nationally as he pushed Stockton’s universal basic income program. 
  • Harder was first elected to Congress in 2018 and most recently defeated San Joaquin Valley Supervisor Tom Patti last year by nearly 10 points. 

Driving the news: Since the 9th Congressional District supported President Joe Biden by 13 points, Harder’s seat had been considered very safe up until this point. 

  • The Cook Political Report now sees the race as being competitive, although the district is rated as going “likely Democrat.” 
  • David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report called Lincoln a “dream candidate” for Republicans, noting his extensive history as a veteran, his work for a security firm in Silicon Valley and his recent history as a pastor at LifeSong church in Stockton, as well as his Black and Latino background. 
  • Yet Wasserman noted that Harder is a fundraising machine with $1.8 million already in the bank for the 2024 cycle after spending $8.7 million in the last election. 
  • “Lincoln is betting the strength of his biography will overcome Harder’s money and the district’s fundamental Democratic lean, and he’ll be worth watching,” Wasserman wrote. “But he’s still a considerable underdog, especially in a presidential cycle when Harder could seek to tie Lincoln to Donald Trump.” 

The other side: Harder wasted no time to rally his base against Lincoln, sending out a fundraising email to supporters discussing the race against the mayor of the 9th District’s largest city. 

  • “This will likely be the most serious challenger I’ve ever faced, and with the top Republican in Washington putting all his weight behind him, we’re going to need all hands on deck to keep this seat blue and take back the House,” Harder wrote.
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