With less than two months until the midterm congressional elections on November 6, Democratic challenger Andrew Janz is running a dead heat with incumbent Devin Nunes in the 22nd District race.
The latest poll provided by the Janz campaign shows the challenger trailing by just 6 points.
These most recent numbers mean Janz has cut Nunes’ lead by half in two months. A July poll showed a 12-point margin in favor of Nunes.
The two surveys used to conduct the polling each have a margin of error of around 4.5%, meaning Janz could be nearly even with his opponent, or trailing significantly.
Regardless, the polling reflects markedly increased support for the Democratic candidate among all possible voters.
The survey sample selected by Strategies 360, the company hired by the Janz campaign, was weighted with additional Republican voters to reflect demographics in the 22nd District.
While the two polls paid for by the Janz campaign still show Nunes with a slight lead, a third independently-conducted poll showed the two tied at 47% of the vote each.
That poll reflected sentiment at the end of July.
The numbers against Nunes are unprecedented. Never before has the perennial candidate seen a true challenge to his tenure, and for nearly a generation there’s been very little change in the 22nd Congressional District. Now, Republican support seems to be shifting away from Nunes.
The most recent poll shows the same voters who are almost equally divided between the two candidates stick to their party affiliations when Nunes is out of the picture. Nunes, the poll shows, is costing the GOP votes.
Norma Burns of Tulare, a longtime supporter of Nunes and personal friend, is one such voter who won’t support the Republican again.
“I won’t vote for him anymore,” she said. “I know know him pretty well.”
Members of Nunes own family have also contributed to his opponent’s campaign.
Bringing the Race Home
Recently, Janz took his campaign into the heart of Nunes’ home town, holding a political rally at Tulare Union High School, Nunes’ alma mater. The rally was the fourth in a series of what the Janz campaign are calling “town hall” meetings, a reference to the lack of such face-to-face meetings with Nunes. Nunes has not held a town hall meeting since 2010.
Nunes’ lack of availability, his refusal to meet with constituents, and his attacks on the press have led to frustration on the part of Nunes’ one-time supporters.
“We’ve asked our present congressman to come and do a town hall with us, and he won’t come,” Burns said. “How are you going to have a district if you don’t talk to the people?”
Nunes Not Available
As recently as this week, Nunes appeared nationally on Fox News to discuss his plans to expose what he termed “rogue” members of the FBI and the Department of Justice. Nunes has surfaced repeatedly in national coverage of the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and agents of the Russian government.
Nunes has received harsh criticism for his role in the theatrics surrounding the investigation, and those back home say he is ignoring problems here in the meantime.
“Come and face us. Find out what we need,” Burns said. “He’s there, but he isn’t recognizing us.”
Janz repeated that message of neglect back to those gathered at the Tulare rally. Nunes’ absenteeism has been a constant theme of the race so far.
“Our elected member of Congress, right now, isn’t using his power and influence for good,” Janz said of Nunes close relationship with Trump. “He isn’t using it for us.”
Time for Change
Janz says Nunes has had more than enough time in Congress to see to the major issues confronting the Valley, but just hasn’t gotten the job done.
“We’ve given Devin Nunes eight terms in Congress,” Janz told the crowd at TUHS. “I’m only asking for one.”
While the crowd at the rally erupted at this, it may not be enough to get Janz into office. Derek Thomas, a one-time candidate for Tulare City Council and longtime resident of that city, wants to see Janz go on the offensive.
“He needs to be more aggressive,” Thomas said.
Janz should focus his ads on Nunes recent lavish spending at donors’ expense, and on his involvement in the Trump-Russia investigation. Nunes’ attacks on law enforcement and the press also doesn’t sit well with Valley voters.
“They don’t like it,” Thomas said.
Signs of the Times
At least one volunteer for the Janz campaign is giving his all to see Nunes replaced. Brian Bobbit, a resident of Easton in Fresno County, has been delivering yard signs throughout the 22nd District, from southern Tulare County to north of Fresno.
“I’m giving 10 or 12 hours a day,” Bobbit said. “I’ve been doing that the whole time.”
Bobbit believes Janz has what it takes to unseat Nunes and to do a better job representing him in Washington, D.C.
“I’m a good judge of character. I know who the good guys are,” said Bobbit. “I started listening to him, and after about five or 10 minutes, I quit listening and started thinking, ‘What am I going to do to get this guy elected?’”
Bobbit decided to put his effort into getting signs into supporters’ yards. The act of putting a political sign in one’s yard, he says, is a significant one.
“I believe yard signs are the biggest, most effective advertising tool a campaign can have,” he said. “A yard sign in someone’s yard is equal to a vote.”
While Bobbit doesn’t agree with everything Janz says in his platform statements, the candidate matches far more closely than Nunes, Bobbit said.
“Are we 100%? No. I’m not looking for a unicorn,” he said. “I have to weigh my own checks and balances.”
Many members of the local Republican party are doing the same thing, he says. That’s how he knows Janz can beat Nunes.
“I know he can do it because I’m delivering signs to Republicans,” Bobbit said. “They come out and tell me they’re sick of Nunes and Trump and donated to the Janz campaign. I hear that at least once a day.”