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First Confirmed Candidate Emerges in GOP Bid to Hold Nunes’ House Seat

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Photo of Devin Nunes
The announced resignation of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, is creating a scramble among local politicians considering a run for his House seat. (GV Wire File)
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More names are emerging as possible contenders for the soon-to-be-vacant congressional seat currently occupied by Devin Nunes.

On Monday, Nunes, R-Tulare, announced he is leaving the 22nd Congressional District seat at the end of the month. He accepted a position as CEO for the new media venture created by former President Donald Trump.

portrait of Nathan Magsig

Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig

Nathan Magsig, the Fresno County supervisor, officially announced he is running for the seat on Wednesday.

“I’m committed to continuing the fight against radical environmentalists to improve the flow of water to our Valley and ensure we can feed the world,” Magsig said in a news release. “And I’m ready to step up action to ensure that our forests are actively managed to stop the threat of devastating wildfires in the Sierras.”

Several other possible contenders GV Wire spoke who did not outright reject a run said they would consider running, but it depends on how the new congressional lines are drawn.

Depending on who else decides to enter the race, it could create a domino effect — those currently holding office and running for the open congressional seat might have to vacate the current seat whether they win or lose.

Who is a ‘Maybe’

Earlier this week, GV Wire reported that Fresno County supervisor Steve Brandau, state Senator Andreas Borgeas and Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld (all Republicans) are interested.

Borgeas filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission forming an exploratory committee.

Here are new names who have confirmed interest:

Devon Mathis, Assemblyman, R-Visalia

“I’ll have to look at it,” Mathis said. “I’m keeping my eyes on the final map,” Mathis said.

He is cautious of running for a district, where the lines could drastically change.

“What is the point of holding office for six months?” Mathis asked.

Jim Patterson, Assemblyman, R-Fresno

“I am considering it. I will decide one way or the other after the final maps for my assembly seat and the congressional seat are finalized,” Patterson told GV Wire via text. “I am also weighing it against the amount of distance and time it will take away from my wife, children and grandchildren. It’s a difficult choice.”

Melissa Hurtado, state Senator, D-Sanger

“I appreciate the many text messages of support after hearing @DevinNunes is retiring. Let’s see what redistricting lines look like first?!” Hurtado wrote on Twitter.

Eric Garcia, current 22nd Congressional District candidate, D-Clovis

“If there is (a special election), yes,” Garcia said.

Lourin Hubbard, current 22nd Congressional District candidate, D-Fresno

“Yes, I will be running the special election,” Hubbard said.

The following have said they are not planning to run.

Jerry Dyer, Fresno Mayor (R)

“No. I’m the mayor of the city of Fresno. That is where I feel called to serve and that is where I’m going to continue to serve,” Dyer said. “This is where God has put me.”

Dyer would consider another office once he finishes his work as mayor.

Margaret Mims, Fresno County Sheriff (R)

Mims says she is happy where she is as sheriff. She is up for re-election in June 2022.

Lisa Smittcamp, Fresno County District Attorney (R)

“I am committed to my position as District Attorney and my DA Family, and although I appreciate the encouragement, I have no intention of running for Congress,” Smittcamp said via text.

She is up for re-election in June 2022.

Pete Vander Poel III, Tulare County Supervisor (R)

“My family comes first. It wouldn’t be fair to them to be a part-time father,” Vander Poel said. “I love being on the Board of Supervisors and seeing effects of my vote.”

Tim Ward, Tulare County District Attorney (R)

“No way. I have a great job,” Ward said. He is up for re-election in June 2022.

Bob Whalen, Clovis City Council (R)

“Nope. Being a Councilmember for Clovis and a prosecutor for Lisa Smittcamp is better than any gig in DC,” Whalen texted GV Wire. He faces re-election in November 2022.

Fresno City Councilman Luis Chavez, a Democrat, says he will not run in the special election, but isn’t ruling out running for the regular congressional election — dependent on how the lines are drawn.

“I’m just focused on serving the constituents of southeast Fresno, and if in the future an opportunity presents itself what I could still represent the constituents of southeast and serve in another capacity, I would consider it,” Chavez said.

Phil Arballo, a Democrat who lost to Nunes in 2020 and is planning to run again, has not decided if he will run in a special election.

“When the timeline of Nunes’ retirement & subsequent events becomes more clear Phil will decide what the appropriate path forward will be,” a spokesperson for Arballo said.

Andrew Janz, a Fresno County prosecutor, who ran against Nunes in 2018, has also declined to state his intention.

Both Arballo and Janz are Democrats.

New Lines Coming

The independent California Citizens Redistricting Committee has until Dec. 27 to present new electoral maps — part of the every-ten-years process based on U.S. Census figures.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is mandated to call for a special election to fill the remainder of Nunes’ term — through Jan. 3, 2023. The special election would be run under current congressional district lines.

In the current district, 62% of registered voters live in Fresno County and 38% in Tulare County. The district has a plus-five Republican advantage.

A separate election will be held for a new two-year term that follows under the new district lines.

To confuse matters, both the special election and regular election could be on the same ballot, possibly with same names but different district numbers and different constituencies.

A candidate does not have to live in the district to run. The main requirements are being a voting resident within the state and be at least 25 years old.

Can Only Run for One Office

State law says a candidate to only run for one office at a time. This could cause candidates like Borgeas, Hurtado, Mathis and Patterson to think carefully.

However, a legal quirk allows a candidate to run in the special election only and another full-term office on the same ballot, according to a Secretary of State spokesperson.

Borgeas and Hurtado are in their first four-year terms as a state senators, with eight years of eligibility remaining.

Mathis is a four-term assemblyman with four years of eligibility remaining (either two more assembly terms or one senate term).

Patterson is a five-term assemblyman, perhaps running for his final term in June.

Similar to the changing congressional lines, assembly and state senate lines are pending CCRC final maps.

Election Timing

A vacant congressional position can only be filled by the voters, not appointed by the governor, the Speaker of the House or anyone else.

The resignation is official when the resignation letter is presented to the Speaker of the House. The governor would then have 14 days to call for a special election.

An election must take place on a Tuesday 126-140 days later. Assuming Nunes’ resignation is effective Dec. 31 and Gov. Gavin Newsom declares the special election as late as Jan. 14, the election could take place on May 24 or May 31.

The law though, does allow the governor to consolidate a special election with a scheduled election (within 200 days of the declaration). That makes June 7 a likely date.

The primary would take place nine weeks prior — April 5.

If April 5 is the primary election date, the filing period to run would be between Jan. 22 and Feb. 11.

Special Election Running Concurrently with Regular Election

If a candidate in the special primary election wins a majority — an unlikely scenario with the volume of candidates interested — there would be no special general election in June.

Otherwise, voters could see two items on the ballot for the congressional district.

One would have just two names — the top-two vote getters in the April primary to fill the remainder of the term.

The other would be the regular election, containing as many names that qualify. Depending on the CCRC, it will likely be a different constituency and possibly a different district number.

For example, voters choosing in the special election could vote for a completely different congressional race on the same June ballot. Conversely, voters could only be voting on the regular election without potentially voting for the same candidates in the special election.

The filing period for the regular congressional election is Feb. 14-March 16.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email