Rumor has it President Donald Trump may come to Fresno next week.
Local GOP officials are playing dumb, but their Democratic rivals seem certain Trump will make a stop in Fresno on March 14 during a scheduled trip to California. With no official announcement of the visit yet, the reason Trump may come to town remains a mystery.
Nunes in Trouble
Local Democrats, however, think they know why the president could be stopping in the Central Valley: The historic Republican stronghold is starting to trend blue.
Regional director for the California Democratic Party Humberto Gomez told The Fresno Bee he is “90 percent sure” Trump will stop in Fresno on March 14, citing sources in Washington, DC. Further, Gomez is also convinced the stop is intended to bolster Congressman Devin Nunes’ (R-Tulare) sagging chances for reelection.
A recent poll showed any Democratic candidate trailing Nunes by just 5 points. Andrew Janz, the front-running Democrat, says the eight-term Republican incumbent knows his seat is not secure.
“Trump is coming to town,” Janz said. “The rumor is he’s going to put his arm around Devin Nunes because he’s in trouble.”
A spokesman for Nunes said the congressman is unaware if Trump is planning a visit to Fresno, the Bee reported. If Trump is coming, Nunes is “not involved.”
Trump currently boasts the historically lowest approval rating for any US president, with just 38% of Americans supporting him.
Red to Blue California
Nunes may have sincere reason to worry about his future. Earlier this month, Vincent Rocha, executive director of Red to Blue California–a political action committee funding Democratic candidates against weak congressional Republicans–announced the group has added Nunes and the 22nd Congressional District to its list of targets.
“Our supporters are telling us they want to get involved in the Devin Nunes race,” Rocha said. “We think there’s a lot of energy there. You can’t take anything for granted.”
While Nunes has the largest campaign fund of any sitting congressman, with $3.8 million in cash on hand, Red to Blue California is poised to counter that spending gap.
“Red to Blue will have the resources to spend millions of dollars across the state,” Rocha said. “That varies depending on the dynamics of the race. Overall, we’ll have the resources to win in all these seats.”
How his organization will deploy those resources against Nunes in the 22nd District, as well as in several other districts around the state, will become apparent as we near the November midterms, Rocha said.
“You’ll see how we do that as the election date moves closer,” he said.
Rocha says constituents in many of the Republican-held districts have had enough of the status quo is Washington, DC, and his organization is hoping to capitalize on this disquiet. They plan to spend their resources in an effort to maximize voters’ displeasure with the GOP.
“Overall, folks are disappointed,” Rocha said. “People want change, and we have the resources to get that message out.”
Candidate Janz–a Visalia native and violent crimes prosecutor for the Fresno District Attorney’s Office–embodies the change voters want, Rocha believes, as well as being a primary source of the energy he sees in the 22nd District race.
Janz also received the state party’s endorsement at the California Democratic Party State Convention last month. Although Red to Blue California would have supported any Democratic candidate against Nunes, Rocha is pleased with Janz’ wide appeal and is enthusiastic about Janz’ chances of winning.
“We’re going to support the Democratic nominee, because that candidate will be selected by the people,” Rocha said. “People like Andrew Janz have a large support, and we think that’s a great thing.”
Janz Talks Tough
There’s plenty for voters to like about Janz, who seems to have the ideal pedigree for a congressman. An experienced prosecutor, Janz holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in public administration. He’s also not afraid to call out Nunes.
“Devin Nunes asking Donald Trump to come to Fresno speaks to Nunes’ vulnerability,” Janz said. “He knows we’re coming after him and he’s afraid. He needs President Trump to bail him out.”
Janz believes Nunes upset voters in his district with his apparently partisan interference in the investigation of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian agents in an effort to effect the outcome of the US presidential election in 2016.
Nunes removed himself as chair of the House Intel Committee during an ethics probe of his conduct, and the congressman now faces a second ethics investigation for leaking classified testimony.
“Devin Nunes represents everything that’s wrong with Washington today,” Janz said. “He takes money from corporations and sides with Russia over the US in security matters. He’s nothing but a lap dog to Donald Trump.”
Support from Red to Blue California, as well as the state party endorsement, have added more fuel to race that’s already on fire.
“I think it’s great,” Janz said. “It reinforces what we’ve been talking about, that we’re the campaign that’s going to be taking on Devin Nunes in November.”
Red to Blue California is involved locally because of demands for action from outside the 22nd District, Rocha said, and that isn’t the only national attention the race is receiving.
Petitions calling for Nunes’ removal as chair of the House Intel Committee bearing more than 600,000 signatures were delivered to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) office last month. Groups behind the petitions included MoveOn.org, CREDO and Common Cause.
“I think that our campaign message is starting to resonate with voters, even outside the area,” Janz said. “I think it’s also recognition that we’ve built a really great team, our campaign team, and we’re bringing a lot of attention to the area.”