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 Campos has to say –
Louie Campos was born in Dinuba. He is passionate about the culinary arts, civil rights and political activism.
Campos’ family has roots in the Tulare, Fresno and Kings counties, dating back more than 80 years. His dad’s family had settled in Dinuba – his great, great, great grandmother is buried there. His mother’s family settled in Ivanhoe. They were immigrants, he said, so they moved around following the crops, but their home base was Ivanhoe.
During his high school years, Campos began working in restaurants. His interest in the culinary arts took him to Kettleman City, Bullhead City, Arizona and Laughlin, Nevada.
“I was doing culinary work, and you want to get exposed to different kinds of stuff – so, I decided the best thing to do, was just go there,” he said.
“The culinary arts were an artistic outlet. I just really liked the ability to be creative, so I tried different things.”
Activism & Unions
His education and experimentation took him to a position at Corcoran Prison, where he worked in the kitchen and oversaw inmates working in the culinary field. He found himself gaining further interest in unions and activism.
“I started in politics when I was with the SEIU 1000 in 2000,” Campos said. “I was a union steward at Corcoran Prison. When I was working in the kitchen there, I was supervising inmates – I did a lot of representation and helped people out with things.”
Ultimately, Campos lost his job as a result of his activism.
“I witnessed an assault by a supervisor on another employee. I reported it, and the investigation said that I didn’t see what I saw,” he said.
Actually, Campos was one of four men who came forward, each with similar accounts of the alleged assault.
“As a result of the investigation, they said that we were not telling the truth,” he said. “He put his hands on another employee, and the investigation by the prison determined that we did not see what we saw. There were four of us, who saw this. The three of us who worked at Corcoran, ended up getting terminated – the one who worked out of a different prison, his institution wouldn’t discipline him for it. He was there [at the time] as a union rep.”
Following this job loss, Campos had a renewed interest in returning to school while continuing to help people.
“All that time I had always been an activist, starting when I was with the union,” he said.
“I was one of the original group of people who did the Occupy Visalia, Visalia’s own little version of Occupy Wall Street. I was among the original founders of Tulare County for Families – initially they were doing a lot of stuff around immigration reform. Now, they are focused on trying to get people in touch with the history of Tulare County, and the role that the Latino culture has played in Tulare County, among other things. I’ve been involved with LGBTQ rights – I’ve been a supporter, actually an admirer, of that movement.
“At Corcoran – I was a job steward, and then I became a bargain union rep, where I was a liaison between the bargaining team, in Sacramento and the Locale, I was with. The district I was in covered Avenal, Corcoran, part of Fresno County and part of Kern County. I also used to be the deemer for the janitors of the DMV, here.
“That’s when I found out I had an inclining for being an activist, and helping to represent people. If someone were to come to me with a work-related issue – be it health and safety, or a scheduling issue, or even as a disciplinarian – I was able to learn a lot about our own system, as well as be able to provide a little comfort, with some place for someone to go for a fellow worker.
“I enjoyed that, and I realized that there is a need. You know, when you’re working in a prison, especially in ours, we’re not CO’s [correctional officers] we’re cooks, and a lot of times we were out there by ourselves. There could be a bunch of inmates and there would be a few CO’s, but there is only one cook out there, so who do you talk to?”
Campos is currently majoring in philosophy at College of the Sequoias and plans to advance onward through law school. He is involved in a program, offered by the California State Bar Association that helps with tuition funding for minorities, in some law schools, universities and community colleges, he said. If elected, he feels he would still attend school, part time, to follow those ambitions as well.
Why Run, Why Now?
Until now, Campos had not run for a public office. He attributes his role as an activist, for attaining experience for a role in Congress.
“As an activist, I have been involved with a few different things,” he said. “I’ve been able to, over the years, get a real grassroots feel for what I think are the needs of the people in this area, and this community. We’ve got a unique thing over here. It is hard to find anything like it in the rest of the nation, even in California, it’s hard to find it. So, a lot of times, we feel a little bit left out by what is going on in Sacramento, and even more so by what is going on in Washington.
“I just feel that being on the ground floor – talking to people, going door-to-door, knocking on doors, and talking with people – I’ve learned, and I’ve got a better sense of, what is going on here and what people’s aspirations are, what they are capable of, and what their expectations are with their government. I don’t think that a lot of their needs are being served right now.
“We’ve got a lot of issues. We’ve got water issues, we’ve got to deal with climate change – we feel the brunt of that stuff here, whether the people who represent us believe it or not. These things are still affecting us, whether you believe it’s real, or not.
“Why don’t we just take an objective look at this thing, and start addressing the problems?”
More People, Fewer Jobs
“We’ve got a growing population. Our economic base is still, and will always be, in agriculture, but frankly, it’s not able to sustain the amount of people we have here anymore, on its own. There are fewer agriculture jobs this year than there were last year, and fewer than the year before. Efficiencies, and what they are doing, have taken a lot of jobs and we cannot expect them to not.
“Nobody is out there dragging a sack, picking cotton anymore. And, we wouldn’t expect to see people doing that anymore, either. So, we’ve got to start looking at ways to diversify this economy and I say, with the combination of what is ailing us and what is good in us, we can start putting people to work. We can use ingenuity. We can start working toward fixing our problem with the drought. How will we capture more water? How do we recharge the aquifers?
“When we feed the nation that’s a national-level topic. I just think our current congressman has missed the boat on a lot things – he didn’t agree with the stimulus program, but that was money that could have been here, and put people to work here – addressing some of the problems we have now, here – taking a principled stand. We are all out here parched to death in the frickin’ desert, and trying to make a living. That’s really nice of you to be principled, but we can’t feed our families on your principles.
“And, I think we are capable of doing that – I think we have the ability to do that.”
A Long Shot
Campos admits that a Democrat running for the 22nd Congressional District, a traditional Republican stronghold, may be a bit of a stretch.
“The shot is long, but that is not a reason not to take it,” he said. “I’ve developed a great affection for the people whom I have come in contact with here, and have great admiration for what they’ve been able to do and how they’ve been able to manage to eek out a living, and, in a lot of ways, prosper. I want to be an ally for that – I’ve always wanted to be an ally for that. I want to do what I can to help fix our problems.
“Playing the partisan game – you’re under water, as a Democrat. Being a Democratic candidate in CD 22 [Congressional District 22] makes it a long shot.
“Incumbency can be a daunting thing, but I think that, increasingly, the voting population is getting more and more disgruntled with incumbents, and it is no longer as sure a bet as it once was. It’s more a matter of getting your people out to vote – recognizing who is representing their issues, telling your story and listening to the stories.
“And that’s another thing – I have heard a lot of stories, before, about what goes on here. I’ve heard a lot more since I started running, because I have talked to a whole lot more people. I’ve gone to places that I hadn’t really visited that much before – areas in Clovis, and they’ve got a whole lot of different issues there than we have in Visalia and Tulare County. It’s interesting to see how we are all clumped together here [in this district] as one group.
“When you take a representative from LA … you can throw a rock from one end of the district to the other. Out here, it’s wide open, and every little town is its own universe. It’s interesting to see all the different dynamics work.”
Wages & Water
Campos feels he could be effective in Washington because of his experiences and his motivation through the people who live in the district he would represent.
“I can speak as to what my aspirations are, and what I represent, and what I would try to work for – to make sure that somebody who does a hard day’s work, gets paid what they’re worth. I don’t see the problem with raising the minimum wage – working people need to have money to spend, too. I would work to do that.
“I don’t understand why, after 80-plus years, how we haven’t addressed that the issue of the FLSA [Fair Labor Standard’s Act] isn’t extended to farm labor workers. I would work to address that. I think that is something that needs to be fixed, needs to be remedied.
“I’d work at ways that we could apply federal funds to help address some of our water issues here in the Valley. I don’t think it is just the Valley that has them. But these are just the ones we know, because we are living them. And, I know that that kind of money does exist.
“We were able to build an atomic bomb in less than four years. Amazingly, where some of those minds came from, was this state – California was home to a lot of those scientists who were able to do that. So, you can’t tell me that we don’t have the mental capacity, in this state, in this country, to really seriously address these problems, if we recognize and accept the fact that, yes, this is a problem. I would fight to do that.
“I would fight to do something about education – making it to where it is affordable. I don’t like the dichotomy that they say, ‘I am paying for someone else to go to school.’ No, we are investing in our country. This is an investment in our country.
“We’ve got to let people know to stop looking at every tax as a tax. Some taxes are investments in the future. And, I look at things that go toward education as just that. Things that go toward fixing our infrastructure, are just that – they are investments in our future. Yes, you are paying some money to go fix that road, but you are going to make 100 times that, transporting your goods across that road, so let’s maintain it and keep it up.”
Climate Change is Real
“It’s important to acknowledge that climate change is real,” Campos said. “Somethings are not subject to opinion anymore. I can see the moral argument, and the moral struggle, with something like capital punishment or abortion – reasonable people can disagree, and there are legitimate moral things on both side of those issues. It’s not just two sides, there is a whole in between. But, when we are talking about something like climate change – that’s an objective – true. And, you can call it global warming, or climate change, I don’t care.”
If Campos should lose the election, he will continue on with his education, and his activism.
“I will still be advocating on things that I’ve been doing anyway,” he said.
And, he plans on keeping options open for other possible ways to make a difference.
“Honestly, two years ago, if you had asked me if I could see myself doing this, I would have said no,” he said. “But, here I am.
“I’ve looked at the problems that we have here, and I see that a lot of them are not getting any better and they’re not getting addressed. How long can I sit here and say, ‘Someone needs to do something,’ before I say, ‘I need to get up and do it.’
The Personal Side
Campos is not married. He turns 44 this year. His parents and sister, along with a lot of other family, live in the 22nd Congressional District.
He likes to read, and write, and is a Tolkien fan. He enjoys lifting weights and the Martial Arts. He also enjoys walking his two dogs. He’d like to travel and spend some time in the cultures of New Orleans and Jamaica.
He also would like to serve the community in which he grew up and lives.
“I come from this area, my roots are from this area, my family is from this area – my family still lives here,” he said. “The house that was my great grandfather’s, [in Dinuba] my aunt still lives there. The house that my [another] great grandfather owned– the original house had to be taken down, but on that lot is the house that his daughter, my great aunt, lives in. So, I’ve got a strong connection here.
“It would be nice to see some of the values that I was raised with represented in congress. The values of this county, the values of this district, the values of the people who feed this country. I hear a person [Donald Trump] talking on the radio, or talking on TV about, ‘THEY send rapist, murderers and drug dealers … ’ – you know, when my great grandparents came here, both sides of them, Campos and Rivas, they both sent their sons to fight in WWII. Which one of them was a rapist? Which one of them was a murderer? Which one was a drug dealer? I am a descendant of these folks – he’s demonizing the people, I am a descendant of.
“The values of hard work, standing together, working together, helping each other out, and the respect that that gives you – every person is deserving of that. I think that that is important. I think that we are forgetting some of that.
“We need to live by our mission statement – ‘All people are created equal.’ We’re equal under the law and should receive full protection, under the law. That’s something to aspire to.”