National Group Targeting Swing Districts Launches Campaign Criticizing Valadao

By John Cox

A national political effort targeting battleground districts like the southern Central Valley’s 22nd Congressional District kicked off a local campaign Friday with a modest morning event at Bakersfield’s Liberty Bell.

Unrig Our Economy Central Valley brought together nine people, including representatives of the local Democratic Party, for a brief morning presentation calling on large corporations and the wealthy to pay more money in taxes — and criticizing Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, for not doing more in that regard.

Local organizer Erica Capp, struggling to raise her voice above the din of downtown without a public address system, said the campaign aims to “fix the rules of our economy” so it works for the working class. As part of that, she said Valadao should do more to put the middle class above wealthy individuals and companies.

“Stop supporting plans to make working people pay more in taxes than corporations and the wealthy, stop letting corporations amass more and more power and stop undermining middle class workers’ ability to negotiate better wage and working conditions,” Capp said.

Valadao campaign spokesman Andrew Renteria responded on the congressman’s behalf, saying, “The only thing rigging the economy against Central Valley families are Joe Biden’s disastrous economic policies that have given us the highest inflation rate in a generation and $5 per gallon gas.”

The national group’s presence, and its stated plan to become involved at community events around the district starting in the coming weeks, show how close the race for the 22nd looks to observers outside the valley.

A Los Angeles-area spokeswoman for Unrig Our Economy, Alice Walton, said the nonprofit is focusing on just four of the nation’s congressional districts, the others being in Iowa, Nebraska and New York. She added the group is not part of the Democratic Party and isn’t advocating for any particular candidate.

“It’s really about talking about the issues,” such as taxes and support for Biden’s plan to spend on U.S. infrastructure, Walton said. She acknowledged Friday’s event was small, adding, “it takes time.”

Valadao hopes this year to win a fifth term in Congress in the face of a challenge by Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield. The race is expected to be tight because the 22nd District is majority Democratic. Other candidates include William Sheldon Cahill, Libertarian Adam R. Holt, Fresno businessman Chris Mathys, Hanford salon owner Adam Medeiros and Elvin Alexander Valenzuela.

Christian Romo, chairman of the Kern County Democratic Central Committee, showed up at Friday’s event and held up one of the national group’s signs. He said the local party supports the campaign, including its efforts at “giving working people a fair shot,” but noted it isn’t part of the organization.

This story originally ran in the Bakersfield Californian.