California state assemblymember Salas launches bid against Valadao

California state assemblymember Salas launches bid against Valadao
© Greg Nash

California state Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D) is jumping into the race against Rep. David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoJarring GOP divisions come back into spotlight Trump allies target Katko over infrastructure vote Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms MORE (R-Calif.), giving Democrats a top recruit to take on one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents next year.

Salas announced his campaign on Monday at an event in Bakersfield, Calif., alongside civil rights icon Dolores Huerta and Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez. His entrance into the race is a major win for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which has tried for years to draft Salas to run. 

Heading into 2022, Democrats have their sights set on California’s 21st Congressional District, which is one of the bluest in the country to be held by a Republican. 

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Valadao narrowly won his seat last election, beating former Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.) by less than 1 percentage point. Cox had previously ousted Valadao in the 2018 midterm elections. 

While Democrats are facing strong headwinds heading into the 2022 elections, they see Valadao’s seat as well within reach. In addition to already having to run in a competitive district, Valadao found himself on former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package Trump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal First rally for far-right French candidate Zemmour prompts protests, violence MORE’s bad side after he joined nine other House Republicans in voting to impeach Trump earlier this year.

Still, Republicans need to flip only about five seats next year to recapture control of the House, a goal that appears well within reach, given that the GOP is likely to benefit from the decennial redistricting process in key states and the fact that the party of a new president tends to lose ground in Congress in the midterms.

Salas isn’t the only Democrat in the race. He joins a field that already includes former Assemblymember Nicole Parra, Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio and political staffer Angel Lara. 

Valadao also faces a challenge from his right in the form of Chris Mathys, a former Fresno City Council member who ran unsuccessfully last year for the Republican nomination in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.

In California, candidates do not appear on separate primary ballots. Rather, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation.