Sources: Hurtado to launch challenge Valadao in 2024

The south Valley legislator is about to shake-up a top targeted race for House Democrats.

Fresh off a nail-biter victory to secure re-election to the California State Senate, Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D–Bakersfield) is expected to launch a bid for Congress, challenging Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford), multiple Democratic sources told The Sun.

Hurtado’s move to challenge Valadao in his deeply-blue Congressional seat sets up a complicated primary season for Democrats, as former Asm. Rudy Salas (D–Bakersfield) kicked off his bid for a rematch after losing to the Hanford dairyman in 2022.


A surprising lead-up: Hurtado, a Sanger native, fended off a ferocious 2022 re-election against farmer David Shepard (R–Porterville) following redistricting eliminated key elements of the Democrat’s Fresno County territory.

  • After a brief recount effort by the GOP, Hurtado squeaked out the election by a margin of 13 votes.

The big picture: Since upsetting then-Sen. Andy Vidak in 2018, Hurtado has established herself as a business-friendly, moderate Democrat with a penchant for advocating for the region’s oft-overlooked interests in Sacramento: farming and oil.

  • She’s also been known for bucking local party preferences, with the most notable being vocal support for now-Asm. Jasmeet Bains (D–Bakersfield) over Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez in a heated intraparty battle for the open seat created by Salas’ bid against Valadao last year.
  • In the immediate aftermath of his defeat to Valadao, Salas filed to run against the five-term Congressman in 2024. Over the course of the following seven months, Salas has a mere $7,241.81 in his campaign war chest, per Federal Elections Commission reports.

The horse race begins: Democratic sources who spoke to The Sun point to Salas’ strangely-timed, midsummer campaign kickoff as recognition of the impending threat posed by Hurtado in the March 5, 2024 Primary signaling time is of the essence for the former lawmaker.

What they’re saying: “After struggling to hold on in the last election by just 13 votes, Melissa Hurtado knows she can’t win again, so she’s putting her self-interest over the Central Valley,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ben Peterson said. “Hurtado supported jacking up the gas tax, attacked public safety and opposed securing the Valley’s water. A brutal Melissa Hurtado–Rudy Salas primary battle will test which of these self-serving candidates is more desperate for a taxpayer-funded salary.”

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