Your guide to the California Congressional District 13 race: John Duarte vs. Adam Gray

Pictures of Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray and his GOP rival, John Duarte
Democratic Assemblymember Adam Gray, left, and Republican John Duarte, right, are competing to represent California’s 13th Congressional District.
(Associated Press)

The race in California’s 13th Congressional District features Democratic Assemblymember Adam Gray and Republican businessman and farmer John Duarte.

The heavily agricultural district is home to UC Merced. Water, healthcare, jobs and public safety are key issues.


Who are the candidates?

Duarte, a fourth-generation farmer from Modesto, grows almonds, pistachios and grapes through his family’s Duarte Nursery, one of the biggest in the country.


He is leaning into his family’s history and knowledge of the San Joaquin Valley to promote his candidacy. In addition to protecting the valley’s water, Duarte says he wants to lower the cost of living in the area.

The Republican got the attention of conservatives when he fought the federal government over accusations — by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and, later, the Environmental Protection Agency — that he violated the Clean Water Act by damaging wetlands to plant wheat in Northern California. After a years-long battle, a judge ruled that Duarte had broken the law. Facing potentially massive fines, Duarte settled and paid $1.1 million.

His family’s nursery has also been sued over knowingly selling unhealthy pistachio trees. A judge ruled in favor of the farmers who bought the trees and claimed millions of dollars in losses, but litigation is ongoing.

Born and raised in Merced, Gray attended the local community college, working at his family’s dairy supply store to pay the way, then earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Santa Barbara. He started his career in politics by working as a staffer for lawmakers. Gray has also lectured on the state Legislature at UC Merced.

In 2012, he was elected to the state Assembly, where he represents much of the northern half of the new congressional district. He has challenged the state water board, including plans to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and send it to Southern California in what he calls the “state water grab.” Gray called this year for an audit of California’s water agencies.


Gray’s campaign is anchored in water rights, improving education and bolstering public safety. Gray has advocated for the creation of a medical school at UC Merced to increase the number of healthcare workers in the valley.


Where is District 13?

The 13th Congressional District sits in the Central Valley and includes all of Merced County and parts of Fresno, Madera, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.


Where Duarte and Gray stand on abortion

In a September debate, Duarte said he believes “women should have access to abortion in the first three months, and I will vote against any effort to nationalize abortion law.”


Gray voted in favor of putting a constitutional amendment before voters to further codify the state’s already progressive reproductive rights. Gray said women should have the right to make their own medical decisions. “I don’t think any level of government — local, state or federal — should interfere with decisions a woman makes,” he told The Times. “Those decisions are guided by her doctors and her faith. Not politicians.”


Gray and Duarte on bipartisanship

Gray points to his work as a founding member of the bipartisan California Problem Solvers Foundation in the Assembly and says he can continue to reach across the aisle in Congress.

The Assembly member, 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.

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.


Past coverage

Here are U.S. House candidates Democrat Adam Gray’s and Republican John Duarte’s stances on abortion, the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, inflation, other issues.

Oct. 18, 2022


How and where to vote

Ballots have been mailed to all 22 million registered voters in the state. Californians can return ballots by mail, drop them at collection boxes or turn them in at voting centers. They can also cast ballots early at voting centers or wait until Nov. 8 to vote at their neighborhood polling places.

Find out how to register, check voter status and vote here:

Here’s how to vote in the California midterm election, how to register, what to do if you didn’t get mail ballot or if you made a mistake on your ballot.


Follow more election coverage

California voters head to the polls Nov. 8 to vote for U.S. senator, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, the state Board of Equalization, judges, members of Congress and the state Legislature. Local races in Los Angeles include mayor and county sheriff. There are also seven ballot propositions on the table.