Emilio Huerta filed papers to run for the 21st Congressional seat against incumbent Rep. David Valadao. Huerta is a Kern County lawyer specializing in unions, worker rights and establishing sustainable non-profits organizations. After much deliberation with his family, he decided to shutter his law practice to concentrate on his campaign. He is the son of Dolores Huerta, one of the original organizers with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers. “The Huerta and Chavez families are going to win this seat back,” said Huerta at the Tulare County Democrat Central Committee (TCDCC) meeting. Members of the Chavez family form part of his core campaign committee.
From the time Huerta was eight years old he accompanied his mother in the family van on marches and protests to fight for agriculture laborers rights. His childhood experiences played a large role in his becoming a lawyer to defend workers rights. “I’ve spent my life defending the rights of trade unions and I want to use those same values while representing the 21st District.”
Huerta’s strategy is to embark on an extensive ground game from Firebaugh to East Bakersfield. The district encompasses all of Kings and parts of Tulare, Fresno and Kern Counties. Huerta’s campaign team intends on going door to door in the small rural communities such as Arvin, Lamont, Delano, Mendota, and Huron to name a few. Huerta has organized his ground game before his fundraising machine because he feels that is how Democrats can win back the district and keep it.
His strategy is to do an aggressive voter registration drive, and encourage Hispanics to mail in their absentee ballots if they can’t make it to the ballot box. The TCDCC recognizes that the biggest problem with the 21st Congressional District is getting Democrats to show up and vote during an election.
Huerta emphasized that this was going to be “a very expensive race and will need everyone’s help.” As of September of last year, Rep. Valaldao had $770,000 on hand versus Democrat Daniel Parra, who only has $10,000. Parra declared last spring his candidacy for the 21st Congressional District and is currently the mayor of Fowler. Parra’s lack of fundraising skills prompted the Democrat party to look for another viable candidate in Huerta.
Congressional District 21 is portrayed as the most vulnerable district in California, but that distinction has so far only existed on paper. Democrats hold a 16% voter registration advantage, but Rep. Valadao has won two elections by a landslide, the last one against a very well funded opponent, Amanda Renteria. The Valadao campaign has already jumped on the fact that Huerta is an outsider that was handpicked by Washington DC Democrats. That claim is based on the fact that Huerta does not live in the district and that Democrats had to come up with an alternative to Parra’s anemic performance. Huerta says that he grew up in Delano and his life’s work has been helping the small rural communities that make up the 21st district. It is not requirement to live in the congressional district you represent and Huerta lives just outside the 21st district in West Bakersfield.
During Huerta’s introduction speech he linked the politics of Rep. Valadao to that of Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump. He said that when Trump called for closing the border or called immigrants from Mexico as rapist, drug dealers, and thieves that Rep. Valadao remained silent implicating his complicity. But Rep. Valadao has consistently sponsored and voted for immigration reform. If Trump gets the Republican nomination Valadao’s support for immigration reform won’t matter. It is projected that Democratic voter turnout will break all records and many Republican seats will be lost.