BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Central Valley has some of the most consequential and fierce races this election year — perhaps none more than the race for David Valadao’s seat in Congress.
Valadao’s district already was one of the most competitive in California. In 2020 it was one of only nine districts in the nation to vote for Biden and send a Republican to Congress.
This year, Cook Political Report named the 22nd congressional race a “toss-up,” one of only a handful of districts receiving the title in the country.
But analysts say the biggest determining factor in the outcome could be out of the candidates’ control.
“In this case, it will be the agenda of the Biden Administration that will be wrapped around Rudy Salas’ neck,” Republican political analyst Cathy Abernathy said.
Abernathy says it will be impossible to separate events in Washington from the Central Valley race, saying inflation and Biden’s handling of the withdraw from Afghanistan will weigh over Salas — the only Democrat.
“He will either have to defend it or say I want nothing to do with it. I think he’ll defend it,” she said.
Democratic political analyst Neel Sannappa noted miniscule turnout by Democrats in this blue-leaning district has led GOP candidates like Valadao to win in the past.
But this time around, with a gridlocked Senate unable to deliver on big campaign promises and President Biden’s low approval rating, Sannappa said convincing Democrats to take to the polls could be even harder.
“That means Democrats are going to be less motivated to turnout during a midterm,” Sannappa said. “And people are more apathetic when there’s not a boogey man like Donald Trump in the White House.”
On the other side of the aisle, analysts say Republican incumbent David Valadao could feel the effects of the now infamous vote to impeach former President Trump. But Trump has yet to weigh in on the race despite two GOP candidates, Chris Mathys and Adam Medeiros, giddy for his seal of approval.
Both parties nationally are keeping a close eye on this district. For Republicans, it’s a seat they are pouring money into keeping, knowing it could be key in taking control of the House. Democrats are setting their sights on the district as well, seeing it as one of their best hopes to flip a red seat blue.