Voters are already receiving ballots to choose a new congressmember for the vacant 22nd Congressional District. Six candidates are running for the seat formerly held by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, who resigned on Jan. 1.
Voters will cast ballots through April 5. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a June 7 runoff.
Winner Serves Until Jan. 3, 2023
The winner will serve until the expiration of the term on Jan. 3, 2023. Even with redistricting, only voters under the “old” CD 22 lines — which covers parts of Fresno and Tulare counties — are eligible to vote.
GV Wire spoke with the candidates for our Take 5 video series, asking them about their background, Russia, gas prices and other issues.
Republicans running for the seat are Connie Conway, a former Assembly Minority Leader from Tulare; Elizabeth Heng, a web entrepreneur from Fresno; Michael Maher, a small business owner from Kingsburg; and Matt Stoll, also a small business owner, from Visalia.
Democrats in the race are Eric Garcia, a Marine veteran from Clovis; and Lourin Hubbard, a water agency administrator from Fresno.
We asked the following questions of each of the candidates:
— What kind of Democrat/Republican are you?
— How should the U.S. handle countries like Russia/China?
— What is your solution to lower gas prices?
— What is your immigration policy?
— What is your water policy?
Heng Running Again
This is Heng’s second run for Congress. She lost to Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, in 2018.
Heng, 37, grew up in Fresno and attended Sunnyside High School before earning degrees at Stanford and Yale. She worked as a congressional staffer in Washington, DC before returning home and launching The New Internet, a web browser geared toward privacy.
“I am a conservative, I’m a constitutionalist, but I’m very pragmatic,” said Heng. “At the end of the day, having anybody on any far extremes, I think, is bad for the country. I think the majority of the population is that in that 80 percent in the middle range and they just want to see things done and for our government to begin functioning again,” she said.
“I’m fiscally conservative and I believe that all the policies that I will work on is moving the bar so that we can get work done for the Central Valley here, moving water policies, immigration bills, and then helping with our education system and alleviating kind of the challenges with our business climate.”
The daughter of Cambodian refugees, Heng believes in immigration reform.
“Both parties, I believe, have failed at creating an immigration policy that actually works. We need more agricultural workers here in the Valley and we need to increase H-2A visas. We need to increase H1B visas for DACA children that are here in the United States. This is of no fault of their own,” Heng said.
Stoll a Newcomer
Stoll, 44, settled in Visalia 10 years ago following a 21-year career as a Navy combat pilot. Currently, he operates three landscaping businesses.
He describes himself as 100% conservative, with a libertarian flair.
“Progressive policies have destroyed our country in the last several years. I think that started back with the Obama administration, and I want to get us back on track towards conservative ideology,” Stoll said.
“We need to have strong borders. We need to have a straight education system that doesn’t indoctrinate our children into communist Marxist progressive ideology, thinking that a socialist system is better than our capitalist system. We need water for the valley. We need a balanced budget. We need to tackle inflation. Those are some of the things I stand for, and I’ll fight for much harder than any of my competition.”
Stoll said American power can bring bad actors like Russia and China into line.
“They only respond to strong powers globally. The United States is that global power, and we must operate from a position of strength. We do that through smart economic policy through an exceptional foundation of business, which is the core of our society. Capitalism is everything, our innovation, our American spirit towards having a vibrant economic system and then, of course, a strong military to back that up. We have to have technical innovation superiority, which we do as a U.S. military, and that will keep our enemies at bay and let them know that we’re not to be messed with,” Stoll said.
This is Stoll’s first run for public office.
Hubbard Says No Dams
Hubbard, 33, is an operations manager for the California Water Resources Control Board. He works on water issues and serves as the region’s racial equity committee chair.
He jokes that he is “not a very good” Democrat.
“I would call myself a pragmatic progressive because I have my roots growing up in the Central Valley, and Bakersfield is a very conservative area. I think that classic conservatism and what we’ve seen now is not that,” Hubbard said.
When it comes to water policy, Hubbard is against dams.
“More dams is not the answer. I think we’ve dammed up just as much as we can. But I think that we can do things and replenish our groundwater, for example, and have storage in that capacity,” Hubbard said.
Conway Has Legislative Experience
Connie Conway, 71, is the only candidate with prior elected experience. She served eight years on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors and six years in the state Assembly, rising to the level of minority leader. She has since served on the state community college board and held a post in the USDA under President Donald Trump.
“I’m a generous Republican, and by that, I mean, I have my own core values, I believe what I believe for the reasons that I do, but I try to be generous with everyone really in helping understand their problems. I think sometimes Republicans get a bad rap that they’re very selfish and they’re only concerned about what’s important to them. And maybe that’s true for some. But I think you can say that about either side of the aisle. With me to whom much is given, much is expected. And I consider myself a Republican that is true to my own core values, but certainly willing to listen and help and respect everyone,” Conway said.
Conway says taxes are the main reason gas prices are high.
“My solution to lower gas prices, we could have had even without what’s happening now, and that is the ridiculous amount of taxes that are put on at the gas pump in California,” Conway said. “The gas tax originally intended to fix roads. Where’s that going now? To high-speed rail?”
Garcia Making Second Run
Eric Garcia, 34, is a Marine veteran who rose to the rank of sergeant. He previously ran for the CD 22 seat in 2020 but did not advance beyond the primary.
Garcia grew up in a farming family in the Central Valley. He is a trained therapist but said he is waiting until after the election to start a practice.
“If I had to give myself any kind of label, I would say (I am a) progressive (Democrat) because I have these ideas to make things better, I want to move forward. I don’t want to stay in the past or stay stagnant because once you’re stagnant in nature, you start to die, so you always have to evolve for the environment. Things change, so you have to change with them. Otherwise, you’ll be left, get left behind,” Garcia said.
He believes economic sanctions could be an effective response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but acknowledges that many risks remain.
“Sanctions seem to be working, putting the pressure on Russia. But, it’s hard to say because it’s ever evolving and these people are not coming from a place of good faith. They’re out for whatever reasons that are making them do this and we’re trying to protect as opposed to they’re trying to attack,” Garcia said.
GV Wire scheduled an interview with Maher, who later canceled, citing a scheduling conflict.
Four of the candidates say they will also run for a full-term seat in the June primary. Heng filed to run in CD 13, where no incumbent is running; Stoll, Maher, and Garcia will run in CD 21, where Costa is running.
Conway says she will not run for a full-term seat. At the time of publication, Hubbard said he is undecided.