Democratic Assemblymember Adam Gray and Republican farm owner John Duarte are vying to represent the heavily agricultural
13th Congressional District in the Central Valley.
The race is one of
11 key California contests in the Nov. 8 midterm election that could determine the balance of power in the House of Representatives. No incumbent chose to run in the district created by the once-every-decade redrawing of congressional maps following the census, creating a rare open seat.
Gray’s answers are drawn from a questionnaire The Times sent to candidates in competitive California congressional races and the responses have been edited for clarity and length. Duarte did not respond, so information about his views were collected from his campaign website, video of a candidate debate and news coverage of the race.
Why do you think you should be elected to Congress? Gray “If you want a member of Congress who was born and raised here and has a proven track record of delivering on water, healthcare, homelessness and public safety, then I would be honored to have your support.” Duarte The nursery owner says on his campaign website that after seeing the decline in quality of life in the region — growing unaffordability, parched farmland and increasing deaths due to drug use and gangs — he “decided to quit complaining and be part of the solution.” What about your experiences make you most qualified? Gray The Assemblyman highlighted his legislative work to create a medical school in the San Joaquin Valley, increase healthcare access at rural clinics, fight crime, build dams and canals, increase water storage and his efforts to reduce grocery gas prices. “If I am elected to Congress, I will fight every day to make the San Joaquin Valley a better place to live by creating jobs, improving healthcare, protecting our water and reducing crime.” Duarte Duarte’s website points to his experience running his family’s nursery to argue he truly understands Central Valley voters’ needs. “John is not a politician — he has real-life experience and knows what it takes to get a job done,” it says. What would be your top legislative priorities? Gray Water storage for farmers and clean drinking water for residents, the cost of living, workforce training, access to healthcare, public safety and education are Gray’s main focuses, he wrote. Duarte On his website, Duarte says he will “fight the high cost of living; protect our Valley water and farms; and fight for safer communities.” How would you work with the other party and on what issues? Gray Gray, who calls himself a “radical centrist” who has lost committee assignments because of his views, pointed to his unsuccessful bill to suspend the state’s gas tax increase earlier this year as proof of his willingness to cross party lines. He also said he would partner with Republicans in Congress to eliminate the state and local tax deduction cap enacted as part of former President Trump’s tax overhaul that has disproportionately affected residents of high-tax states such as California. Duarte When asked in a recent debate about how he would work with Democrats, Duarte said there was no middle ground in Congress. “There is no center of energy or power around moderate Democrats in Washington right now. If you look at the Democratic Party in Washington, D.C., it is a socialist-driven party,” he said, criticizing the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act as a “very socialist” program. On abortion Gray “I support a woman’s right to control her own body and make her own medical decisions with her doctor. I don’t think any level of government — local, state or federal — should interfere with decisions a woman makes. Those decisions are guided by her doctors and her faith. Not politicians.” Duarte “I’m a moderate about abortion. I believe women should have access to abortion in the first three months, and I will vote against any effort to nationalize abortion law. Period,” he said in the September debate. On the Jan. 6 insurrection and falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election Gray “Not liking the outcome of an election doesn’t mean it was fixed, corrupted or hacked. While we clearly need to bolster security at the U.S. Capitol, our electoral systems worked as intended. The systems don’t need fixing, the politicians do. The Constitution gives both parties and all candidates a set of rules they can operate within. Anyone who went outside of those rules and broke the law should be held fully accountable.” Duarte When asked during the debate whether Trump bears responsibility for the insurrection, Duarte said, “He did not tell the people to go attack the Capital. The people who attacked the Capitol are responsible for attacking the Capitol.” On mass shootings and gun control Gray “The bipartisan gun control bill that just became law was a good idea. Enhanced background checks, investments in mental health programs and school safety upgrades shouldn’t have required kids to die. I will lead by example, supporting additional investments in public safety, school security, early mental health screenings and treatment and reasonable gun control measures regardless of which party came up with the idea.” Duarte Duarte said a recent Supreme Court decision enshrines gun rights, but he was amenable to some new regulations, including making certain semiautomatic weapons unavailable to the youngest adults. “We’ve seen enough shootings, we can go that far,” he said during the debate. “We need to look at background checks and we need to look at mental health a lot more seriously when it comes to guns. Guns don’t pull their own triggers.” On the Affordable Care Act and prescription drug costs Gray “The ACA has an insurance premium problem.... We need to prioritize additional premium assistance to bring down costs, strengthen tax benefits to incentivize employers to offer high-quality health coverage to all employees and invest in areas where the lack of doctors and nurses is the greatest impediment to accessing care. We can also support market mechanisms to allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices in bulk like we are just beginning to do in California.” Duarte His campaign website’s section on issues does not mention healthcare or insurance. When Duarte’s campaign was asked about the Affordable Care Act, he did not directly respond but said in a statement that he aimed to “make sure every American has high quality, affordable healthcare. This includes making sure people with pre-existing conditions can get healthcare they can afford and that those in rural communities, like the Central Valley, have access to top-flight medical facilities and doctors. I strongly support honoring our Medicare commitments. I also support tax free Health Savings Accounts that allow people to set aside money [for] future healthcare needs.... Telehealth should be expanded and encouraged.” On immigration, the border, citizenship Gray Gray said he supports a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally as long as they have followed the law since they arrived. “Go after the criminals and leave law-abiding immigrants alone. We have clear labor and border laws that should be followed.” Duarte The candidate’s campaign website does not mention immigration, but when asked during the debate about GOP governors flying migrants to Democratic areas, he called their efforts “creative solutions to address the issue. Maybe it is or isn’t what I would do, but I certainly don’t blame them for trying something different” to fill what he said is a “leadership vacuum” among national Democrats, including President Biden. What is the federal government’s role in dealing with the homeless crisis? Gray “Homelessness has many causes, but it really comes down to healthcare and housing, and California is short on both. The federal government must increase funding for healthcare, and mental health care in particular, so that we don’t leave the mentally ill on the street. Federal courts should also learn from California’s CARE Courts and model a similar program nationally. Leaving people to suffer on the street is not compassion, but without investments in supportive services, our courts will have nowhere to send people in need of help.” Duarte He mentions the issue under his campaign website’s safety paragraph: “I’ll make sure our homeless get the help they need.” In the debate, he said homelessness has been exacerbated by policies that allowed criminals, including drug addicts, to avoid jail. “Many of us unfortunately know people who have drug addiction problems. And many of us know that a stint in jail for a year is oftentimes the only time they clean up and get off their drugs,” he said. “What we’re doing now is we’re putting our communities at risk by not incarcerating criminals.” He added that the government must deal with economic challenges that are prompting more people to use drugs or experience mental health issues and become homeless.