We can surmise with a high degree of certainty three things about Rep. Devin Nunes’ re-election bid.

One, internal polling has given Nunes reason to worry that Democratic challenger Andrew Janz is breathing down his neck.

Two, it’s been so long since Nunes had a credible opponent, he’s literally forgotten how to campaign.

Portrait of GV Wire News Director/Columnist Bill McEwen


Bill McEwen

Three, either he’s genuinely afraid to go out into large crowds or his ego has conned him into believing that he can win without personally connecting to large numbers of voters.

How close is this race in a district drawn up to ensure a Republican victory?

Close enough for Nunes to stop running against The Fresno Bee, the mainstream media and #FakeNews, and identify his opponent by name in television and radio attack ads.

Bee’s Reporting Debunks Nunes’ Opening Salvo

The problem for Nunes is, the centerpiece of his new commercial — thanks to the stellar reporting of The Bee’s Rory Appleton —  has been debunked.

And even worse for Nunes, he committed a cardinal sin by needlessly drawing Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp into a backyard brawl she had been determined to stay out of.

“I haven’t campaigned on county time. It’s been either on my vacation time or my lunch break. I am glad Lisa Smittcamp is calling out Devin for his lies.” — Andrew Janz

In case you missed it, the Nunes ad said that “Janz claims to be a hard-working prosecutor, but he’s posted hundreds of campaign tweets during taxpayer-funded work hours.”

Appleton asked Smittcamp if that were true.

“We have had no issues with him and are not aware of him campaigning on county time at all,” Smittcamp said Wednesday.

Smittcamp, who occupies a nonpartisan office but is a Republican, also told Appleton that the commercial “is curious to me, because the Nunes campaign has done public records requests for his time sheets, and those have been provided.”

Smittcamp: ‘This Is Not My Fight’

For the record, Smittcamp has not endorsed in the race, but her husband’s family is prominent in Republican circles, big contributors to the GOP and conservative causes, and longtime supporters of Nunes.

“I don’t have a dog in this race,” Smittcamp told me Thursday. “This is not my fight.”

Fresno County DA Lisa Smittcamp

Fresno County DA Lisa Smittcamp

Smittcamp also reiterated her Wednesday comments: “I gave Andrew very strict instructions on campaigning, and I have no reason to believe he has violated any of the rules that were set forth.”

Said Janz on Thursday: “I haven’t campaigned on county time. It’s been either on my vacation time or my lunch break. I am glad Lisa Smittcamp is calling out Devin for his lies.”

Clearly, when it comes to campaigning, Nunes is fat and flabby — totally out of shape.

Did he think that Smittcamp would bail him out with a nod-and-a-wink?

Then he doesn’t know the DA.

If I were Janz, I’d send Nunes a note thanking him for further energizing Democratic voters.

Nunes Embraces Role as a Victim

At this point, you also have to question how well Nunes knows the voters of California’s 22nd District.

While Janz has done more than 130 meet-and-greets and held four town halls over the past 18 months, Nunes has flown all over the country doing fundraisers for fellow Republicans and answering softball questions from Fox News hosts. He’s also continued his one-man investigation on behalf of President Trump to take down the “deep state.”

And while Nunes’ rants about Antifa, liberals, and the resistance probably satisfy longtime supporters with deep pockets, I imagine that small business owners and farmers are a lot more worried about Trump’s tariffs and ag’s labor shortage.

They also might wonder why Nunes — who supposedly is one of the most powerful members in Congress — leaves all the heavy lifting on water, immigration reform and opposing Trump’s bewildering trade policies to fellow Valley Republicans Jeff Denham and David Valadao, and even Democrat Jim Costa.

And there’s this: If Nunes is so powerful, why does he fully embrace — even appear to relish — the role of victim?

Nunes Appears Married to Trump

A man of strength would meet voters anywhere, anyplace, anytime.

A man of strength would separate himself from Trump’s nativist “Build the Wall” policies.

A man of strength might even sit down with Trump and move him to a reasonable immigration position by telling him the story of the 1957 volcanic eruption on Faial that displaced thousands of Azoreans.

That tragic event inspired U.S. Rep. Harlen Hagen of Hanford to sponsor legislation granting visas to 1,300 families. Congress twice extended Hagen’s Azorean Refugee Act of 1958, further growing the Valley’s Portuguese community.

It’s Been 16 Years Since Nunes Had a Real Campaign

The last time Nunes faced legitimate competition was the 2002 CA-21 Republican primary. That was when Mike Briggs attracted enough votes in Fresno and Tulare counties to derail Jim Patterson’s congressional dreams and pave the way for Nunes’ victory.

If I were Janz, I’d send Nunes a note thanking him for further energizing Democratic voters.

Since then, he has defeated Democrats David LaPere, Fred Davis, Steven Haze, Larry Johnson, Otto Lee, Suzanna Aguilera-Marrero, and Louie Campos. All were sacrificial lambs. All were underfunded. Lee was a carpetbagger from San Jose and virtually unknown in the Valley. One time, no one even bothered to run against Nunes.

Janz, however, is a real adversary whose campaign, at last count, had raised $6 million.

Maybe Nunes can beat him with mail brochures, phony attack ads and playing the poor, poor, pitiful me card.

Whatever he decides, he can ill afford another whiff like this one.


7 Responses

  1. Nancy

    Excellent summary. DA Smittcamp certainly has nothing to gain from this and is only stating the truth. Nunes camp is grasping at straws and running scared. Their internals must look pretty frightening.

  2. Pamela Beck

    McEwen makes several excellent points, all of which add up to the fact that Nunes has assumed a ridiculously “entitled” attitude towards the congressional seat he occupies. With his shameless neglect of his duties and his constituents—not to mention his self-awarded crown of thorns—Nunes is on the verge of marginalizing himself right out of the seat he’s gotten so comfy in.

  3. Rachel Youdelman

    Thank you for the clarity of this reporting. I am more convinced every day that Andrew Janz will make a fine congressman and will actually represent the interests of the people of the Central Valley. He has demonstrated his concern, care, and capability by holding town halls and meeting with the people, by clearly articulating his platform, and by steadily earning strong support by informed voters from across the politcal spectrum. By extreme contrast, Nunes has addressed zero platform issues and has shown us that he does not represent us–he will not meet with constituents, his priority is protecting a deeply corrupt White House, and his thinking is fractured, ignorant, and strongly suggests paranoia. This comment is not meant as an ad hominem, but it is clear that the man is not emotionally healthy. He bounces around, wildly defending legitimate critique with fearful accusations that everyone is conspiring against him for no good reason. Nunes must be defeated. He is not fit for public service. Andrew Janz is eminently fit to represent us, and I look forward to enthusiastically casting my vote for him on Nov 6. Thank you again, GV Wire and Bill McEwen for this reporting. Very much appreciated.

  4. Paul Dictos

    I too don’t have a dog in this race. I ran more campaigns than anyone in the Valley and have learned one thing: incumbents win 95% of the time.

  5. Pete Mumbas

    Perhaps 20 to 1 (5%) does not apply at this time. But for Janz to win, voters will have to vote THEIR interests (Ag/tariffs, immigration policy, real water alternatives, sensible economic policies, et al) and maybe new voters will finally decide to cast their lots with the rest of us before our democracy and civility further erodes.

  6. Ron Ramos

    Devin Nunes has been doing a great job. He is and has been very busy doing what he was elected to do. If Janz a Democrat can really do something about why there is a man made drought here in the Valley. He will have to deal and work against the policies that the Environmentalist and Democrats have willed on this state. And he will not be able to do squat but do as Pelosi and Feinstein say!!!!! By the way Boys and Girls there are many people in District 22 that don’t want open borders and a Sanctuary state’s and Cities.


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