Politics

Sources: Rudy Salas set to join field against Valadao in 2022

It’s Salas season, apparently.

Longtime Asm. Rudy Salas (D–Bakersfield) is set to join the ever-ballooning field of Democrats vying for the chance to oust Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) from office in November 2022, Kern and Kings County Democratic sources confirmed to The Sun.

A Salas bid has been rumored since the outset of 2021, with him working to court the support of organized labor and much of the state closely following California’s glacial redistricting process.

The Sun reached out to Salas’ political team for comment, but did not receive a reply ahead of publication.

Despite grumbling on the right about Valadao’s vote to impeach President Donald Trump on his first day back in office, the veteran Congressman hasn’t missed a beat in fundraising, posting successive quarterly fundraising hauls in excess of $350,000 for the first six months of the year.

Valadao sits on nearly $870,000 in his campaign war chest.

His closest competitor in the cash dash? Former Fresno City Council member Chris Mathys, a fellow Republican who is largely self-funding his bid.

Meanwhile, Valadao’s other competitors – three Kern County Democrats – have posted far more humble sums during their stint in the race.

Nicole Parra, who once held the Assembly seat now occupied by Salas, has raised just shy of $75,000 since announcing her candidacy weeks after the 2020 election.

25-year-old Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio managed to out-raise Parra in the second quarter of 2021, hauling in $40,633.56 to her $29,081.30, though Parra maintains a cash-on-hand advantage.

Speaking to The Sun on Wednesday, Parra said she was always anticipating the likelihood that either Salas or former Rep. TJ Cox (D–Fresno) could enter in the race in 2022.

For her part, Parra has strong backing beyond campaign cash: she picked up the endorsement of a trifecta of statewide elected Democrats: California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Treasurer Fiona Ma, and Controller Betty Yee.

“I’m proud that, despite knowing that TJ or Rudy may be jumping in that the three highest-ranking women leaders in the state are with me,” she said.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that Salas took a similar approach to Parra, opting to enter the race early in the election cycle rather than wait for draft Congressional district lines to be released by the state’s citizen-led redistricting commission.

“Valley families are Valley families,” Parra said of her early entrance. “Lines don’t matter to me, people do.”

Parra welcomed Salas to the campaign trail via text message nearly a week ago, she said.

“I said ‘I hear you’re running. Welcome to the campaign trail. I look forward to seeing you, let’s keep it positive'” Parra said.

Salas replied with a thumbs up, the former legislator added.

Prepare for a tale of two Kern legislators

Don’t mistake a positive campaign as one devoid of differences and contrasts, though.

“There’s about five or six young men running, I’m the only woman to-date. The only one who has lived in all four counties,” Parra noted.

And while both Parra and Salas boast bipartisan work during their Sacramento tenures, what’s the difference between the pair of Blue Dog Democrats?

Parra argues she’s got stronger bona fides during her tenure of being unafraid to rankle the Sacramento establishment to deliver for her constituents.

“I’ve taken the heat for endorsing [GOP successor] Danny Gilmore back in the day and being kicked out of the Capitol for fighting for Valley water” Parra said.

“I have a proven track record that I’m proud of.”

Where will national, state party Democrats go?

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, has past experience intervening in Democratic primaries. That includes the hotly-contested 21st Congressional district.

In 2018, Democrats sidelined 2016 nominee Emilio Huerta to clear a path for Cox, who began that election cycle vying to oust then-Rep. Jeff Denham, to challenge Valadao one-on-one.

In 2016, Fowler Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Parra entered a California Democratic Party convention as the favorite, only to have a nasty delegate fight break out and end with the party backing Huerta instead.

Where does that leave the two legislators for a potential intra-party squabble?

“No one knows the Valley – campaign-wise – than myself,” Parra said. “I’m not deterred if they get involved or endorse someone else. I will work 100 percent for the people in the Valley, that’s what my campaign’s about. I’m running a campaign that’s a culmination of 30 years of public service in the Valley.”

And what’s Valadao got to say?

Not much, his campaign manager Andrew Renteria told The Sun.

“Central Valley residents are facing real hardships right now and Congressman Valadao is laser focused on delivering for them,” Renteria said in a brief interview.

“He’s not focused on politics.”


The author of this article was employed by Valadao during the Representative’s prior tenure in the House.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.