This is the second in a series of blog posts about the seven California Republicans who voted to repeal Obamacare and who represent districts Hillary Clinton carried. (See the first one here.) We’re highlighting them in order of their distance from the Bay Area because if America under Trump is really going to be this sociopathic, compassionate firebrands ought to be methodical in fighting for what is right.
High-speed rail opponent, alfalfa-and-dairy farmer, and one-time Land O’ Lakes Regional Leadership Council Chairman David Valadao is a third-term Republican congressman from the Central Valley. Along with the other 13 Republicans in California’s delegation in the House of Representatives, he voted on Thursday to repeal the signature accomplishment of the Obama era, the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with a wad of feces authored in a spirit of gratuitous malice.
Valadao represents California’s 21st district, which runs from Coalinga to the southern suburbs of Fresno to large parts of Bakersfield. You probably know it from stopping at the Kettleman City In-N-Out just east of Interstate 5 — and possibly also because of the Harris Ranch, occasionally referred to as “Cowschwitz.” Seeing as I got a bit of tone-policing from Facebook commenters yesterday for mentioning the 10th district’s aesthetic deficiencies, let us also note that Valadao’s hometown of Hanford has a beautiful historic Fox Theater that dates to 1929 and which is playing The Goonies on May 18, awesome. Also, in fairness, San Francisco smells like pee a lot, so maybe I can only credibly criticize hot manure so much.
In any case, of the 14 California Republicans, seven represent districts Hillary Clinton won. And of those seven, Valadao’s district is the bluest. Obama won it twice, and Clinton improved on his margin to beat Trump there by a fairly massive 55-40. In fact, in the entire country, there are only two districts held by the GOP that voted for Clinton by a wider margin than that, and both are in South Florida. Nonetheless, in 2016, Valadao cruised to a third term 56-43, beating a disorganized and underfunded opponent, Emilio Huerta (who happens to be the son of United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta). This makes him a top-tier target for Democrats looking to take back the House in 2018.
In light of that, you can interpret Valadao’s vote for an extremely unpopular and wantonly cruel piece of legislation in two ways: Either he’s a risk-taking idiot, or he’s a canny operator. It’s probably the latter, as, along with fellow Central Valley Republican Jeff Denham, he’s broken from party orthodoxy on immigration. (The 21st district is 71 percent Latino. Valadao, incidentally, is of Portuguese descent.) In endorsing his re-election bid last November, the Fresno Bee noted that the 40-year-old incumbent excels at constituent services and works tirelessly to improve water access for the region’s agriculture (although he blamed the drought on overregulation and not climate change). He also flip-flopped on Trump the candidate, endorsing and later quietly un-endorsing him.
Well, here we are six months later, and prudently keeping mum about your party’s nominee to save your own political hide is no longer tenable now that he’s the president and you’re voting with him 100 percent of the time. More to the point, whatever reputation for helping out his constituents Valadao may have had is now tarred if not ravaged. His social media channels say nothing about his health-care vote — shrewd move there — and at least he’s not out there uttering outrageous lies like some other Republicans. But there’s some evidence he’s going into bunker mode to ride out the storm because that strategy has worked for him in the past.
Will he get away with it? Maybe. The last line of his bio page reads thusly (emphasis mine):
Valadao is also dedicated to keeping our promises to our nation’s veterans by making sure those who served our country are taken care of in their retirement years and receive the best quality healthcare available.
Nice sentiments. Yet David Valadao, the poorest member of Congress, voted to make his constituents sicker and poorer. He’s an appalling hypocrite who signed onto the most vindictive people of legislation in years. Let him know how you feel at 202-225-4695.