Poll numbers for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) are dropping quickly as constituents from both sides of the political aisle grow increasingly upset at the lack of access to their congressman.
Close Race Early
A survey of voters by the firm Public Policy Polling released Tuesday by the campaign to elect Democratic challenger Andrew Janz shows any candidate going up against Nunes has an almost even chance of beating the incumbent. The poll gives Nunes 50% of the vote, with 45% of the vote going to any unnamed Democrat that runs against him. Because the poll has a 4.1% margin of error, Nunes advantage could be as little as 1% or less.
“I’m more determined than ever to retire him in 2018,” Janz said.
The last time Nunes was reelected, his margin of victory over his Democratic opponent was 20 points. With the election still nearly six months in the future, Nunes support has already eroded by 25%.
Nunes is particularly at risk with independent voters, 61% of whom already plan to vote against him.
Nearly half of independents who might support him change their minds when presented with news reports of Nunes actions regarding the Trump-Russia investigation.
“This poll shows what I knew to be true when I announced last April,” Janz said. “Devin Nunes is vulnerable for a challenge this year due to his ethical missteps and complete dedication to protecting the president instead of serving the people of the Valley.”
At least one voter Nunes has been able to count on in the past is upset with the way the congressman is conducting business these days.
Amy Dickinson-Campbell, a Navy veteran who advocates for the rights of other veterans, was upset when she was met with a locked door when she made a recent visit to Nunes’s Visalia office.
“I was a little taken aback when they (Nunes’s staff) argued with me over the intercom,” she said.
She made it inside, using her status as a veteran to gain access.
“They answered the door for me, but I told them, ‘I stood the watch, I think you can answer the door for me,’” Dickinson-Campbell said. “I’m a veteran, and I advocate for other veterans. I was helping a veteran get a discharge upgrade.”
Dickinson-Campbell says Nunes’s staff told her they no longer allow visits to his office because of security concerns.
“I told them I would spread the word for them,” she said. “They said it’s for their own safety.”
What they didn’t tell Dickinson-Campbell is the policy resulted from the threat staff felt from constituents who dropped in unannounced to see Nunes and his staff members. When a group of clergy came without an appointment in September, Nunes’s office called the Visalia Police Department to have them removed.
“That’s weird,” she said. “I thought it was because he was on these (House of Representatives) committees.”
Others aren’t as privileged.
“Our friends, they came in after us, but apparently on their way in some people said, ‘Good luck, they (Nunes staff) never answer the door,’” Dickinson-Campbell said. “That’s just what the people in the hallway and building say.”
As a veteran, Dickinson-Campbell says she really isn’t impressed with the supposed threat posed by unannounced visits from constituents.
“‘I already did my time in the crucible with bomb threats. You can open the door,’” she said she told Nunes’s staff. “They really had no where to go with that.”
Meanwhile, on the national front Nunes continues to draw fire for his actions in the House probe into alleged illegal Russian involvement in the 2016 US presidential elections.
The latest round of criticism includes comments from former White House Council John Dean, who served President Richard Nixon during the Watergate Scandal. Dean, in an interview with Politico, said he believes Nunes may be guilty of obstruction of justice for his interference with the House Intel Committee’s Trump-Russia investigation. Nunes is chair of that committee.
According to Politico and many other national media news outlets, a group of Republicans headed by Nunes has been meeting “secretly” in an effort to discredit the FBI and the Department of Justice. That, says Dean, strips them of immunity they would normally enjoy.
“Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have tried to use the speech and debate clause to protect themselves from everything from bribery to taking care of constituents with the executive branch, and been shown that clause is not that broad,” Dean told Politico. “I think they’re on dangerous ground.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intel Committee, told CNN last week that Nunes is blocking subpoenas for dozens of witnesses who have information about the meeting at Trump Tower between representatives of the Russian government and members of the Trump transition team. Among the witnesses Nunes has refused to call is the president’s daughter Ivanka, as well as Donald Trump Jr.
“The chairman has a different agenda,” Schiff told the PBS News Hour.
While Nunes has not responded to repeated requests for an interview from the Valley Voice, his House Intel Committee spokesman Jack Langer, who also works directly for Nunes, issued a statement.
“The Committee is working to develop well-supported findings that will help protect the 2018 elections against hacking and other potential disruptions by foreign powers,” Langer wrote. “The Democrats, by contrast, are insisting on a ridiculous, endless investigation for public relations purposes, in order to distract from their inability to provide evidence for the wild arguments they’ve been making to the media all year.”
Locals Confused, Upset
Dickinson-Campbell, the local veterans advocate, isn’t sure what to make of Nunes’ recent behavior. To many locals, the Trump-Russia comings and goings are seen as a national issue that keeps Nunes from taking care of their business.
“Honestly, I don’t know what to think of him,” Dickinson-Campbell said. “I get the impression he doesn’t care what we think. He’ll do whatever it takes to keep him in office.”
While she likes what she’s seen of Nunes’ work on water rights, Dickinson-Campbell has no idea where her congressman stands on other important issues.
“I don’t know where he stands on things personally, because he doesn’t talk to us. That’s not helpful,” she said. “He hasn’t really done anything that’s really impressed me.”
Candidates Forum February 15
Those who want more information on the candidates seeking the 22nd District congressional seat will have a chance to hear them speak on Valley issues at a public forum at 7pm on February 15 at Reedley College, 995 N. Reed Avenue in Reedley.
Hosted by a range of local political groups, including the Visalia-based South Valley Civics, organizers have extended invitations to candidates from all parties, including Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians.
It is unknown if Nunes will participate. He has not attended a local open forum in more than a year.
South Valley Civics is also holding monthly vigils outside Nunes’ Visalia office at the corner of Church and Main streets. This month’s Nunes Watch Rally is set for 11:30am Tuesday, January 23.