Republican John Duarte wins open congressional seat in Central Valley
- US News
- December 3, 2022
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Republican farmer John Duarte won an open congressional seat in the Central Valley, defeating Democratic Representative Adam Gray despite the Democrats’ strong advantage in district voter registration.
The Associated Press called Friday’s race, although official results will be longer. The race was California’s last congressional contest to be called, and contributes to the narrow majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives in the next Congress. The House lead is 221 to 213, with one race yet to be called by the AP — the contest led by controversial Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert in Colorado has been recounted.
No incumbent chose to run in California’s heavily agricultural 13th congressional district, which the decade-long redraw of the maps adjusted to include all of Merced County and portions of several others. Democrats have a 14.3 percentage point lead in voter registration, but low turnout among Democrats and Latinos — who make up just over 50% of the voting population — along with the independent nature of politics in the region, have made racing here unpredictable.
Both candidates emphasized their local roots and independence during the campaign.
Gray, who was elected to the assembly in 2012, described himself as a “radical centrist” who works across party lines. The Merceder native noted that his views have seen him lose seats on the Legislative Committee and highlighted his unsuccessful bill to suspend the state’s gas tax.
Duarte, 56, is a fourth-generation farmer from Modesto whose family nursery — one of the largest in the country — grows almonds, pistachios and grapes. His battle with the federal government over allegations that he had damaged wetlands to plant wheat drew support from conservatives concerned about overdoing it by federal agencies. Duarte finally made up his mind and paid $1.1 million.
While the two men’s political leanings differ, they do agree on one of the most pressing issues in the district: water. Both worked against the Delta Tunnel plan, which would have cut water supplies to farmers in the region.
And unlike some other convention competitions in the state, the contestants were relatively congenial throughout their race. Both men were asked during a recent debate to say something nice about their rival.
Gray called Duarte “a kind fellow” whose “heart is in the right place.”
Duarte said Gray was “a respectable, pleasant guy” who was genuine and had “worked hard for the community.”