The 22nd Congressional District encompasses much of Tulare County and parts of Fresno County. Devin Nunes, a Republican from Tulare, currently occupies this seat, developed following reapportionment in 2013. He formerly represented the 21st District (in its former boundaries) for 10 years, which in 2013 was filled by David Valadao.
Opponent Louie Campos is a Democrat, born in Dinuba, who currently resides in Visalia. While each feels they have nothing but the best in mind for their local community, they are deeply divided on issues concerning the Valley and the country.
In the fiery battle for the White House, Nunes remains a supporter of Donald Trump. Campos, on the other hand, says he is appalled by Trump, his voice and his actions.
Here’s what Nunes has to say –
Devin Nunes has been involved in agriculture all of his life having grown up on a farm in the area between Tulare and Visalia. His family are Portuguese descendants, whose family came to the South Valley in search of farming opportunities and a good life.
Nunes and his brother started a custom harvesting business for alfalfa and wheat, while Nunes attended College of the Sequoias. He later transferred to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he obtained his bachelors in Ag Business and his masters’ degree in Agriculture. He and his brother had saved up some money, he said, and purchased farmland in Tulare County to start farming alfalfa. He also ran his family’s dairy operation during this time.
Nunes had always had an interest in and studied policies. His introduction to politics followed his return to Visalia.
COS Trustee & Bush Appointee
When he returned home from San Luis Obispo, and started farming, he was asked to run the campaign of a man running for the COS board of trustees. But the day before the filling deadline, he and another candidate both backed out, Nunes said.
“Well, look, why don’t you just run?” Nunes said he was asked. “And they put me up as a sacrificial lamb,” he said. “Nobody thought I was going to win – I was 22 years old. And I won.”
Nunes sat on the COS Board for six years prior to running for congress. In 2001, he was appointed as the State Director for the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Section by former President George W. Bush.
A Rising Politician
About six or seven months later, reapportionment occurred, following the 2000 census, and new congressional districts were formed. This opened up a new seat in the Valley.
“I decided I was going for it,” Nunes said.
“My main interest in policy has always been water and trade issues,” he said. “I focused a lot on water when I was in high school and college.
“It’s not a new issue, not at all, unfortunately, it just keeps getting worse. I knew it was going to be a problem – I knew it was going to be a limiting factor to our economy here, so I always had an interest in it. I figured I might as well stand up and do something about it – no reason to sit on the sidelines and complain.”
He was elected to the 21st Congressional District, and won subsequent re-elections. His district changed with the 2013 boundary changes and when he was elected it was to hold the 22nd District seat. The bulk of his constituents remained the same; others remained in the 21st District, currently filled by Representative David Valadao.
Concentrating on the Issues
In Congress, Nunes serves on the Ways and Means Committee and chairs the Trade Committee. He also serves as Chairman of the Congressional Intelligence Committee.
“I try to take complicated problems and study them, and build out solutions in legislative form,” he said.
“I have focused on a lot of issues over my career – but water and trade were my initial [focus] and I still work on those a lot. Trade is immensely important to this Valley – exports and imports are very, very critical to the success here, because we grow things here, and build things here in California, that are not grown or built around the globe.”
Nunes cited almonds, pistachios, walnuts, grapes and various types of citrus as some of the items to which he was referring.
“I’m not saying they don’t grow anywhere else,” he said, “but in terms of large production, competitive, being a low-cost producer, the specialty crops are really tough to beat outside of California.”
“The tax reform bill, I would say is one of my major accomplishments to this point,” Nunes said. “The tax code, I think, is really inhibiting the growth in the United States, and we’ve come up with a solution to this problem. My main core, the ABC Act, which switches us to a cash-flow tax, was incorporated into what we call our Better Way Agenda that Republicans have in Congress.
“At the core of economic growth is my tax policy, that I have spent all most a decade working on and perfecting. And, the reason why is because it is complicated and you have to build coalitions. It has taken a lot longer than I ever wanted it to, but I feel like we’re a long way down the road, and we’ll likely be passing a major overhaul to the tax code, for really the first time. This will be the first replacement bill, hopefully, knock-on-wood, that will get rid of the income tax and replace it with a cash-flow tax. It will revolutionize the tax system for the United States of America.
“Instead of having a big, complicated return, and it would make filing taxes a lot easier, what is your income and what are your expenses. Right now, we have complicated depreciation schedules, complicated tax credits, as we do business activities in the United States. So, what this does, it basically says, what is your income, what are your expenses? And, that’s what you pay – whatever is left, you pay tax on it, for all business activity. So, it can be a lemonade stand, or IBM computers.
“I only looked at the business activity, because that is basically the core of economic activity . . . Once you harness all that, that is what the people of the United States are consuming. And, by doing that, you hit most of the economy.
“On the wage side, we simplify it down to three rates. But, that’s not mine, my proposal was taking all business activity and creating a cash flow tax. That’s what’s taken me all most a decade.”
It is, however, all in one bill.
Where’s the Water?
“Water issues continue to be a struggle. It’s just sad, honestly,” Nunes said, “Because, I think we’ve made a strong case, but we can’t get the Senate to move on any legislation. And, the White House blames global warming.”
Nunes said, the poor quality of water in some locations in the Valley, is a “symptom of not having enough water. Dilution is a solution, which means you need a lot more water into the region.”
Before 1992, water wasn’t a problem for the Valley, he claims. This is what really peaked an interest in politics for him, he said.
“Watching the debacle in 1992, when the federal government took over one million acre-feet of water away from this Valley – that’s what really honed in, because I realized at that point that where we were farming in the south part of Tulare County – that water policy was going to lead to no water being available to the South Valley, which is basically where we’re at now.
“So, we’re looking at a million acres of farm ground coming out of production within the six-county region – some has come out of that, but there’s going to be a lot more if the senate doesn’t pass a bill. We’re roughly about 2 ½ million acre-feet short of water between Madera and Bakersfield. The solution is using the infrastructure that we have – that gets back most of the water, and then building Temperance Flat. It’s only federal laws that have shut the pumps down – nothing else.
“We’ve presented plans out there to do it. We’ve passed legislation out of the House, but at the end of the day, we haven’t had support from our senators, or our governor, or the president.
“This is water that just goes out to the ocean. Believe it or not, California has a plentiful water supply – all you have to do is move it, and most of that infrastructure has been built. We’ve lost 16 million acre-feet this year alone to the ocean – remember I said we need 2 ½ million? I’d even take a million-and-a-half, would solve a lot of our problems, two million would put us in good shape. Two-and-a-half million acre-feet, we’d farm every acre in this Valley.
“It’s easy for me to speculate and it is only speculation, but I believe that the extreme environmental groups want this land idled. That’s what they’ve told me. And, I’ve said this several times – when I was first running for office. To be precise, they said, 1.3 million acres needed to come out of production – so they’re almost at their goal, because they are going to get about a million, if we don’t do anything.”
This area is known for good soil and was recognized by the early pioneers, he said.
“This year, we’re not in drought,” he added. “If we would have been at ’92 pumping levels, we would have farmed nearly every acre on the west side [this past year]. Because, the way the system is built, it is built to take water when we have a good supply. Even if you are slightly below normal – even at 80% of the average – we’re still moving a lot of water. These reservoirs were all built to withstand five years of drought. Pretty much every acre would have been farmed [this year], if we were at ’92 pumping levels.
“I say Temperance Flat is needed because those pumps don’t necessarily get the water to the eastside. Which is why you need Temperance Flat, to be able to catch the water in the big, heavy years, and move it into the different water basins between Madera and Kern County. That’s what the eastside needs.
Global Warming – Fact of Fiction?
Nunes said he does not believe in global warming.
“No. I think the climate changes,” he said. “We know historically, if you look back at data going back several thousand years, you can tell that the climate has changed. It’s gotten warm; it’s gotten cold; it’s gotten warm. Just in my lifetime alone, when they said we were going into a global cooling trend and that we were all going to freeze to death – that was in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. Now we’re in global warming, supposedly, but now they’ve changed the rhetoric to climate change, to meet their objective, which is, I think, it is an attack on development.
“If you really think climate change is the world’s biggest problem, you can build nuclear power plants, which produce massive amounts of clean energy – but, this state’s not doing that. This state’s shutting down all the nuclear power plants – they’ve just announced that their reactors are going to close in seven years, eight years. So, this is not people that really believe in climate change, because if you really thought the oceans were going to rise and that people were going to be decimated, you’d be doing everything you could, not only to keep those two reactors running, but even building more. Just those two reactors alone are like, 10%, of the state’s energy.
“That tells me there are probably different variations of thought, that go through one’s mind when they’re pushing these extreme ideologies. But, the bottom line is that this mostly goes back to they don’t want a lot of this land farmed, and they don’t want people on a lot of the land. They don’t want people up in the forest and they’re all extreme environmentalists, and unfortunately, have control over the Democratic Party.”
Reaching Across the Aisle
“If one deals in reality and is honest about negotiations, then of course you can work together,” Nunes said. “But, as I pointed out, you asked the question about global warming, if the governor of this state, and the senators were really worried about global warming, then why would they be proposing a policy to close down the nuclear power plants? I don’t think those are people dealing in good faith, or being honest with the American people, or the people of California.
“I would have total respect for one, if they said, ‘Oh, gosh, global warming is the number one issue,’ which basically we’ve heard basically everyone in the democratic party say – that it is the number one issue facing America today. So, OK, then why wouldn’t you be coming up with a plan to produce as much clean energy as possible?
“I would say on the intelligence issues, as it relates to the Intelligence Committee – I chair it and my ranking member [Adam Schiff, D-Burbank], we’re both from California, and we both have a very good relationship – we agree most of the time – not always, probably 80-90% of the time. We try to work in a bipartisan manner.
“I have no problem working with people – I don’t care what party they are, but, we’re going to deal in fact – fact-based legislating, not rhetoric. And, I’m not being critical of just, of course the extreme environmental groups that control the Democratic Party, that’s a big problem, but I’ve got people in my own party that do the same thing.”
Nunes said he is running again because he wants to keep America safe.
“Which is what I do every day with the Intelligence Committee,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest honors you can receive to be trusted by your colleagues to be put in this position – one of the most important positions in the United States. So, that has just been such a tremendous honor and there is so much work to be done there, as the world becomes a more dangerous place every day.
“Second – the water fight goes on. You can never give up – whoever the members of congress are from this region, we have to continue to fight for water.
“And then, I talk about the tax policy – it has taken a long time to develop, but you also take what I believe to be the nation’s biggest problem is our debt. We have $20 trillion in debt now, and we have about $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, at the federal level. And, those are only going to be fixed by economic growth, and reforming health care and social security – so reforming the entitlement programs.
“This president hasn’t wanted to deal with those, but clearly the American people have to ultimately deal with what they decide. So, the American people voted to put someone in who says that global warming is the number one challenge to America – not what I think it is – but you have to make your case as best you can in the legislative government.
“I think what people want here in the San Joaquin Valley is to live their lives free, and government is best run by the locals and the state. The federal government needs to stay out of our lives here, and they need to stay out of lives of others around the country.
“What’s the most important job of the federal government is to protect the people – it’s to have a strong national defense.”
On a Personal Note
Nunes admits he doesn’t know what his future will bring. But, for now, he’d like to continue to work in Congress.
“Every day, in this job, there is not a shortage of problems to deal with, and so I get up every day and go to work on the most important issues at the highest levels – every day, all day, and I enjoy it.”
Nunes’ wife, Elizabeth, and their three daughters continue to live within the district. Elizabeth Nunes also grew up in the South Valley, and the couple was dating when Devin Nunes we first elected. They were married about a year into his first term in congress.
Devin Nunes admits that it is not easy living part-of-the time away from his young family, but “that’s what we signed up to do.” Having a large, supportive family helps, he said.
Nunes said he does not have a lot, if any hobbies, outside of his work. He keeps his hands in agriculture with a small ownership in a winery in the Napa Valley. He enjoys watching NFL football and NBA basketball, as well as the Fresno State Bulldogs. He also enjoys spending time with his daughters, who are currently into Star Wars.
“Tax reform is a big hobby of mine. National security is a hobby. Yep, so there’s never a shortage of things to do, which is kind of nice,” he said.