Andrew Janz makes case for Congress
Fresno County prosecutor, Visalia native Andrew Janz runs against 16-year incumbent Devin Nunes for Congress
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
EXETER – It isn’t easy being a democrat in deep red Tulare County, but you don’t have to tell that to 71-year-old Exeter resident Shirley Dailey. She has been a democrat since she registered to vote, and Dailey says she has taken some flak for it, mostly from friends and family. But that hasn’t stopped her from turning out to democratic meet and greets for candidates like the one for congressional candidate Andrew Janz.
Last Thursday at Garrick and Jeannette Peterson’s house in Exeter, Dailey had the floor during a Q&A between Janz and voters. Welling with tears and fighting back a quivering voice, Dailey simply requested Janz be a statesman if he goes on to win.
“When you go to make a decision, can you just ask yourself, ‘is this best for my country?’ Because I’m just so scared right now,” Dailey said.
Dailey was just one of 35 people lined up wall-to-wall in the Petersons’ home on Thursday, and those 35 made up just a few of the dozens who are supporting Janz in his race for the California 22 Congressional District race against Devin Nunes. Polls conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by End Citizens United, Democrats Fighting for Reform show a single digit difference between Janz and Nunes, 41-49. However, the margin of error is 3.9% meaning Janz could be as far down as almost 12 points or trailing by as little as four.
Making a run for it
Janz, the 34-year-old Fresno County prosecutor from Visalia, is optimistic about the numbers.
“For anybody who is a first time candidate for any type of public office to be within single digits of one of most powerful men of the United States Congress, I think that’s saying a lot,” Janz said in an interview on the Paper Trail Podcast, hosted by Sun-Gazette editor Paul Myers and publisher Reggie Ellis.
Positive polling at 41 percent with just under three months until the November election perhaps indicates a better turnout for Janz than pervious democratic challengers. Since 2004 Nunes’ democratic opponents have garnered an average of 31 percent of the vote, although some years have been better than others. Otto Lee managed to draw 38.1 percent in 2012, with the next closest coming in at 32.4 percent from Louie Campos in 2016.
Janz hopes his messaging to democrats, republicans and everyone in between continues to carry him through November.
“I’ve been very upfront and honest with the voters since I came out…this isn’t about red versus blue it’s about the Valley and are we happy with our representation,” Janz said. “Are we happy that we don’t have any new water projects, are we happy with the fact that we have these tariffs that are going to tear apart our local economy…are we happy with the fact that we don’t have a health care policy that helps all Americans—Devin Nunes hasn’t done anything for us.”
Janz believes he has managed to turn the tide with voters by pointing to the negatives of Nunes national profile, which has been put on display in a big way via his chairmanship on the House Intelligence Committee, and its role in the ongoing Russia investigation. And as of late, Nunes has come under fire for a leaked recording of him spelling out the need to keep a republican majority in the house of representatives in 2018. The recording has been construed in terms of stifling special counsel Robert Muller’s investigation, with the purpose of protecting President Trump from impeachment.
“If Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones, which is really the danger,” Nunes said at a dinner for a fellow representative from Washington.
“The thing I’ve noticed is that people at that fundraiser eat very loud,” Janz joked. “The biggest thing for me is this corruption going on in Washington…You have my opponent out there working every single day to undermine the Robert Muller investigation. So for me as a prosecutor I’ve been trained to take on an assignment where if I see injustice I’m going to fight injustice.”
According to Janz it appears as if his strategy has been working. He says while on the campaign trail he has made contact with people who have not traditionally been involved in politics until Nunes’ role in the national conversation increased.
“I’ve been criss-crossing the district since April of last year and I don’t know how many people have come up to me and said, ‘I’ve never been involved in politics before, I’ve never paid attention but now with what’s going on in Washington and now what’s going on in the Central Valey I’m going to step up and do something about it’,” Janz said.
It appears as if Janz’s message is not only gathering votes but dollars as well. As of June 30, the last federal filing date per the Federal Elections Commission, Janz has about $1.1 million on hand. Meanwhile Nunes has a massive $6.1 million on hand as of the same filing period. The real difference Janz says though, is where the money is coming from.
“I’ve been very vocal about this issue because Devin Nunes takes money from [corporations], and when you take money from these people they own you,” Janz said. “My average contribution is around $19, Devin Nunes average contribution is $1900.”
The discrepancy has not gone unnoticed. In May of this year the Fresno Bee’s parent company McClatchy reported from their Washington bureau the Central Valley congressman raised just $19,000 from individual donors in the district. The rest of his funds came from either corporate political action committees or from out of state entirely.
On the issues
Dealing in political rhetoric has only been part of Janz’s strategy. The other part is defining the issues he stands for, and one of course is water storage.
The Temperance Flat project to build a dam on the upper San Joaquin River east of Fresno was awarded $171 million by the California Water Commission on July 25 as part of a $2.5 billion allocation to water storage projects up and down the state. Although the project has merit, it has taken so long to gather any kind of funding the idea of water storage has left most people yawning than inspired.
“We need to invest in our country, we have to rebuild. We have been spending a ton of money doing other things for other countries around the world,” Janz said. “We have to be ready for years where we don’t have the rainfall at the time. But at the same time we need to be able to divert some of that water to recharge our ground water.”
Unfortunately not everyone who draws water from the ground is able to drink it. Some unincorporated communities in Tulare County have found it difficult to treat or filter their water to a point where it is clean enough to use because of nitrates or other chemicals. And while state legislation brought the issue to prominence in SB623, the bill ultimately died before the State’s budget was passed.
“This is a public health crisis in the Central Valley and the richest state in our country and nobody is doing anything about it. We need to start treating the problem here like we treated the water problem in Flint Michigan,” Janz said. “I will make sure when there is legislation that comes down next year that something in there will be included for the Central Valley, in particular here for our district.”
A national issue that has had sprawling affects here at home has been immigration. There are an estimated 39,000 undocumented immigrants residing in Tulare County. When the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was rescinded last fall, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began to rise to national attention many Tulare County undocumented immigrants feared deportation for themselves or family members.
The issue of enforcement and the legal tribulations of DACA are still far from settled.
“Securing our boarders need to be a part of the conversation. That’s important to me,” Janz said. “We need to make sure that Dreamers have a pathway to citizenship. If you look at the polling data on this 80% of Americans agree that these folks who are law abiding, pay taxes, who some of which serve in our armed forces they need a pathway to citizenship. They were brought to our country due to no fault of their own.”
The conversation over immigration is still not just one about enforcement. Because of the ag based economy, immigration is still a conversation about employment. Janz says employment and immigration cannot be ignored in the larger debate for the Central Valley, and that farmers have been receptive to treating immigration as not just a political point of contention.