Congressman Devin Nunes (R-22) may be in some seriously hot water, and the embattled, beleaguered lawmaker is facing what could be his first serious challenger during the 2018 election cycle.
Nunes, chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has been in the national political spotlight since late March, when he visited the White House surreptitiously on March 21, then again publicly on March 22, claiming he was briefing President Donald Trump on the contents of an intelligence report given to him by what he termed “whistle-blowers.”
It was later revealed the source of the report was likely two White House staffers, one of whom had worked for Nunes’ committee before joining the Trump administration.
Critics have said the elaborate chain of events may have been a distraction from the FBI’s ongoing investigation into possible Russian influence in the presidential election. Nunes’ actions were certainly a violation of the Intel Committee’s protocols, which call for such information to be shared with all members at a secure location in the Capital Building.
Nunes finally removed himself from the investigation on April 6, following outcries from his colleagues from both parties.
Player 2 Enters the Game
It was that negative and widespread attention, which continues to mount as Nunes now faces a probe by the House Ethics Committee, that pushed Visalia native Andrew Janz into the race. While the 33-year-old prosecuting district attorney in Fresno County says it was Nunes’ mishandling of the Trump-Russia investigation that drove him into the race, it’s his sense of public service that is sustaining it.
“Growing up my dad was a big influence to me. His message still sticks with me to this day, that was a message of public service,” Janz said. “It was about giving back to the community that gives you so much.”
Nunes’ delays and obfuscation in the Trump-Russia investigation has been characterized widely as an attempt to hinder or even prevent it, and that kind of interference is exactly what Janz says he’s been extensively prepared to avoid by his career choice.
“In my role as district attorney, I advocate for the interest of victims and for the interests, frankly, of the rest of the people of the county,” he said. “What I’ve done as a prosecutor is seek justice for countless people who have been effected by crimes of all magnitude.”
Failure to Communicate
While Nunes’ behavior in the Trump-Russia scandal captured the national media’s attention, back home his constituents were already clamoring for the representative’s attention.
Nunes has not held a public forum to talk with voters in District 22 since August, when he appeared at a discussion on water issues in Tulare.
He skipped a town hall meeting in Visalia on April 19, and also refused to send a member of his staff.
Nunes and Jack Langer, who serves as both Nunes’ and the Committee’s director of communications, have repeatedly said the Congressman will not attend such open forums because of the presence of “left-wing activist groups.”
Janz says that isn’t the way he’ll conduct the public’s business.
“People want the Congressman, their representative in Washington, to let them know how he’s going to vote. They want him to know how they feel about the issues he’s going to vote on. At the end of the day, they just want to be heard. That’s why I’m here.”
Hostile Press Relations
Nunes’ office has also begun cutting off press access. Last month, Nunes cut off contact with a reporter from the Fresno Bee after the reporter visited Nunes’ neighborhood in Tulare for a story about the local reaction to his sudden presence in the media, the Bee reported.
Talking to the People
While Nunes’ staff was pushing back against “left-wing activist groups”, Janz was out talking to his would-be constituents, no matter what side of the political aisle they occupy.
“What we’ve done over the course of last couple of weeks is go out and talk to basically everyone who will listen to us,” he said. “These are Democrats, these are moderates and these are Republicans. I’m talking to everybody.”
The issues most concerning for residents of the Central Valley have little to do with President Trump, the Russian investigation and any hypothetical left-wing conspiracies.
Instead, the people in the 22nd Congressional District are far more worried about healthcare, water, crime, the economy and the environment, Janz said.
“A lot of people feel like their concerns aren’t being heard. That’s why they set up a town hall meeting,” Janz said. “That’s why they try to meet with him (Nunes) at his district office. They just really want to be heard on the issues that are affecting them.”
Janz is a Visalia native and the son of immigrant parents. A graduate of Redwood High School, he holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a masters in public administration from CSU Stanislaus. Janz earned his law degree from Southwestern Law School and served as a clerk for a state district judge in Nevada before beginning his career with the Fresno DA’s office.
Janz says he’ll spend the months leading up to the election making sure he knows exactly what the people he’ll represent want from their lawmakers.
“It’s not my job to tell them what they should be concerned about,” he said. “It’s my job to listen to them.”
For more information on Janz’ campaign visit andrewjanzforcongress.org.