Republican Rep. David Valadao and Democratic Assemblymember Rudy Salas are battling to represent California’s heavily agricultural
22nd Congressional District, which includes portions of Kern, Kings and Tulare counties, in what is considered one of the nation’s most competitive races.
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.
Salas’ answers are drawn from a questionnaire sent to candidates in competitive California congressional races, as well as his voting record. His responses have been edited for clarity and length. Valadao did not respond, so information about his views were collected from his campaign website, voting record, debates and news coverage of the race.
Why do you believe you should be elected to Congress? Salas “I’m proud to be born and raised in the Central Valley. I attended public schools and worked in the fields with my father, learning the value of a hard day’s work. As an assemblymember, I wake up every day thinking about how to improve the lives of Central Valley families,” Salas said. He highlighted his work in the Assembly on water for farms, healthcare and prescription drug costs, and votes “against raising gas taxes and in favor of suspending the gas tax.” “I’ve delivered long overdue overtime pay for farmworkers, clean water for our communities, invested in community colleges and increased funding for law enforcement. I’ve never been afraid to take a tough stand, even when my party disagrees.” Valadao Valadao’s campaign website calls him a “proud son of the Central Valley” who has “always fought to do what’s right for the Valley.” “We need to protect our water, put an end to out-of-control inflation and outrageous gas prices, work to bring new jobs and job training to the Central Valley, and stand up for seniors and veterans to ensure they get the benefits they deserve,” the website says. What about your experiences make you most qualified? Salas Salas pointed to investments for which he advocated in the Assembly, including for improving water quality, education, public safety and combatting valley fever. He also highlighted legislation that allowed farmworkers to earn overtime pay as well as his work on clean drinking water for Valley families and water for farmers. “I have been a steadfast watchdog of your hard-earned tax dollars, holding public officials accountable when they misuse your money,” he said. “I was the only Assembly Democrat to vote against raising the gas tax. Valley families can’t afford an extra $1.19 per gallon in taxes and fees.” Valadao Valadao’s website says his work on his family’s farm, which consists of two dairies as well as farmland in Kings County, and his involvement in agriculture and dairy industry groups give him insight into issues important to the region. If elected, what would be your top legislative priorities? Salas Salas said he’d work to pass legislation lowering prescription drug costs and insurance premiums nationwide. “I’ll fight to hold corporations accountable for price gouging, and I will stop any cuts to Medicare or Social Security. Ultimately, this district has never gotten back from the federal government what it puts in. Changing that will be my first priority.” Valadao On his campaign website, Valadao mentions helping Central Valley farmers, improving benefits for veterans and military servicemembers and maintaining the Valley’s water supply as priorities. The website says Valadao wants to lower the unemployment rate and healthcare costs in the San Joaquin Valley, reform immigration policy, give educators and parents “resources and flexibility” and facilitate the production of oil and natural gas in California as well as renewable energy. On what issue would you would work with the other party? Salas Salas said he is “someone who gets things done regardless and despite partisan politics.” He added that 82 out of 83 bills that he’s helped get signed into law in the Assembly had bipartisan support. “I will work with anyone of any party who’s willing to strengthen families here in the Central Valley. It won’t be on just one issue — I believe that we can get things done on everything from lowering drug prices to improving our water resources to strengthening our economy,” he said. Valadao During a televised debate in October, Valadao said partisanship is one of the biggest issues facing Congress and the U.S. “I’m happy to say it’s not as bad as what you see on TV,” he said. “But when you get into a lot of the more important topics, that’s where it gets really ugly. I mean for us, specifically, water is a very divisive topic and we’ve had a lot of fights and that’s why these debates are important....” He added that debating “with people we disagree with is a core function of what we do” in Congress. On abortion: Salas “That is a decision that should be left for a woman to make with her physician, her family and within her faith — no local, state or federal politician should have any say.” Salas co-sponsored Proposition 1, a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot that would reinforce the state’s abortion protections under the state Constitution. Valadao Valadao is a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, which as written would ban abortion nationally with no exceptions. The bill, which was introduced in the House, says “the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization.” Before the Supreme Court’s decision this summer reversing Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling guaranteeing a national right to abortion, Valadao signed on to an amicus brief asking the justices to overturn Roe. Valadao said during a Q&A with Bakersfield’s KGET-TV on Oct. 12 that he supports exceptions in abortion bans for rape, incest and to protect the life of mother, a departure from the Life at Conception Act. On LGBTQ rights: Salas “I have always opposed discrimination against LGBTQ Americans and will continue to do so,” he said. Valadao Last year, Valadao voted against the Equality Act, which provides LGBTQ people with explicit protection against discrimination under federal civil rights laws. In July, he was among 47 GOP members of the House who voted for a bill to protect marriage equality in response to an opinion from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that called for reversing decisions that enshrined LGBTQ rights. On the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, election integrity and accountability for the insurrection: Salas “The Jan. 6 insurrection and attack on the Capitol was an outrage, and those responsible — including those who aided and abetted the attack — must be held accountable,” Salas said. “It is also critical that we protect the right to vote for all Americans. While we must prevent voter fraud, it also cannot be used as a bogeyman to make it harder for certain people to vote.” Valadao Valadao was one of 10 Republicans who voted in 2021 to impeach Donald Trump over the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. At the time, Valadao said, “President Trump was, without question, a driving force in the catastrophic events that took place on Jan. 6 by encouraging masses of rioters to incite violence on elected officials, staff members and our representative democracy as a whole.” What is the federal government’s role in trying to stop mass shootings? Salas “I am pleased that there was bipartisan progress made in June and supported the gun safety bill negotiated by both Republicans and Democrats to save lives. I am incredibly disappointed that it took more children’s lives lost to make that happen.” Salas is often more skeptical of gun regulations proposed in California than others in his party. In September, he voted against a bill that would have rewritten state regulations on concealed carry licenses. Valadao Valadao in June voted against the Protecting Our Kids Act, which made several changes to federal firearms laws including establishing new criminal offenses for gun trafficking and expanding the types of weapons and devices that are regulated. He was one of 43 Republicans who voted in support of a bill to expand coordination of alert networks for active shooters. What is your opinion about efforts to overhaul police funding? Salas Salas said he supports funding law enforcement and reforming use-of-force policies. Valadao Valadao co-sponsored the Invest to Protect Act of 2022 to establish a grant program through the Justice Department to fund training for de-escalation, domestic violence response and officer safety in cities with small police departments. The bill also provides grants for body cameras and mental health services for officers. “Police departments in small communities, like many in the Central Valley, struggle to have enough funding to properly recruit, train and provide resources for their officers,” Valadao said at the time. On healthcare: Salas Salas said he supports making farmworkers eligible for benefits under the Affordable Care Act. He said the Farm Labor Modernization Act, which passed in the House last year, would be the “best first step” to making that a reality. More broadly, Salas writes on his campaign website that he’ll expand Medicare and “fight to defend the Affordable Care Act against attempts to gut its benefits or allow insurance companies to deny coverage to Californians with preexisting conditions.” Valadao In 2017, Valadao voted for a House GOP bill that sought to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. (The bill did not pass.) He writes on his campaign website that he “believes the best healthcare is a market-based approach to healthcare reform that provides individuals with competitive choices and addresses the needs of those unable to afford healthcare insurance.” On immigration: Salas “Again and again, Congress has failed to fix our broken immigration system. Members of Congress have spent years putting their own personal political interests ahead of results for our communities. And our families and our economy here in the Central Valley are paying the price,” said Salas, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. “I believe that we need a pathway to citizenship. There are a lot of people in the Central Valley who have worked and lived here for over 5-10 years and paid their taxes and are in good standing, law-abiding and should be afforded the opportunity to be a citizen of the United States. “At the same time, we must bring our border security into the 21st century to ensure we have safe and secure borders. Valadao Valadao, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Europe, coming from the Azores, says on his campaign website that he supports reforming the immigration process and “a reasonable and responsible pathway to citizenship for those wishing to enter our country and those already here.” “Rather than targeting those simply trying to raise their families, we should equip law enforcement with the tools to focus on undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes,” he said. What is the federal government’s role in dealing with the homeless crisis? Salas “We need to work to end homelessness here in the Central Valley, and that starts by both investing in affordable housing and also ensuring local governments have the resources to help people off our streets. In Congress, I’ll be a partner on this issue to ensure we are getting the resources we need, but also closely studying the results to make sure this funding is being used effectively.” Valadao Valadao has not spoken publicly recently about homelessness. In August, he wrote on Twitter that he had a “productive conversation” with Delano Police Chief Tyson Davis about tackling homelessness and drugs. “We need to make sure our law enforcement are well equipped to handle these challenges,” he wrote. In April, Valadao requested $1.5 million in federal funding for an emergency homeless shelter in Tulare. It is not clear whether any federal dollars have been allocated to the project. Voters in Tulare in November will consider whether to approve a tax on cannabis businesses. A portion of the money from the tax would go toward the shelter, officials say.