Esmeralda Soria officially revealed a poorly kept secret — she is running for Congress against fellow Democrat Jim Costa.

Soria made the announcement Thursday with a three-minute video on Facebook.

“I am humbled by the overwhelming local support, as I stand up and step up for my family and community,” the Fresno councilwoman said in text accompanying the post. “Our families need a Congress that works for US, not corporations. Too many of us have followed the rules, worked hard, graduated from college and yet are struggling to get by.

“I am asking you to stand with me as your next Congresswoman. Together we will Rebuild our MIDDLE-CLASS, Fight for HEALTHCARE ACCESS for all, and ensure our KIDS go to COLLEGE, NOT CAGES!”

Costa Responds: ‘Nobody Works Harder Than Me’

Official congressional portrait of Jim Costa

— Jim Costa

“I am disappointed,” Costa said of Soria’s announcement. “She has been a longtime ally and she’s endorsed me before. I’ve met with her a number of times since November and never once did she indicate she regretted that endorsement or question my efforts on the issues I’ve been fighting for.”

Costa cited his work on trying to secure legal status for Dreamers and his pushes for immigration reform and bringing more water and transportation infrastructure to the region. He also said that he is teaming with Democratic state lawmakers Joaquin Arambula and Adam Gray on a medical school for the Valley.

Will Soria Be Costa’s Toughest Opponent?

Asked about a Fresno Bee headline that suggested Soria might be his toughest congressional opponent, Costa responded:

“I’ve been challenged throughout my career in the Legislature and Congress. I don’t try to measure my opponents. I run on my record. In the last election, I had a formidable opponent (Republican Elizabeth Heng) who raised over $1 million and had strong D.C. connections. We won by 15 (percentage) points.”

Additionally, Costa pointed to endorsements he’s already received for his 2020 campaign as evidence of strong Democratic support: Gov. Gavin Newsom, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

“At the end of the day, I put my faith and trust in the voters of the Valley. We have a strong record of achievements. And the voters know, nobody works harder than me on their behalf.”

Third Person to Challenge Costa

Soria, an attorney and an instructor at Fresno City College, won election to the city council in 2014, and won reelection last year without an opponent. She would not have to leave the council in order to campaign. If she is successful, she would leave in the middle of her council term.

She is the third person to announce a challenge to Costa, who has served the Valley in Congress since 2005.  Merced educator and fellow Democrat Kim Williams, along with former Clovis Unified educator and Republican Kevin Cookingham, announced their bids earlier.

The 16th Congressional District covers half of the city of Fresno, snaking up Highway 99 through Merced, and back down through Los Banos and the west side of the Valley.

According to Soria’s city January 2019 campaign finance statement, she had $112,878 in cash on hand.

Costa’s most recent federal campaign finance report shows $120,799 cash on hand.

Video Announcement

Soria covered many themes in her video, but focused mainly on health care. She shared a story of how her father recently quit his job to take care of her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

In her video, she cited as accomplishments: building new housing and parks, creating thousands of jobs, and approving the hiring of public safety officers.

Other issues mentioned in the video included student debt, affordable housing, and corporate influence in politics.

“D.C. politicians and insiders, like my opponent, put the interest of corporations over us,” Soria said in the video, without mentioning Costa’s name.

Soria has not filed any fundraising documents with the Federal Election Commission.

Recently Ruled Ineligible to Practice Law

According to the State Bar, which regulates attorneys, Soria was not eligible to practice law from July 2018 through March 1, 2019, because she hadn’t paid her bar fees.

“I missed paying my fee. It didn’t impact my work as I was not practicing law at the time,” Soria said.

Soria graduated from the UC Davis School of Law, first being admitted in 2012.

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