Oct. 18—State Assemblyman Rudy Salas announced his long-awaited candidacy for Congress on Monday.
Surrounded by supporters at the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 428, he said he intended to take on Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, for California's 21st Congressional District, promising to be an "independent voice" in Washington, D.C.
"For far too long we have had a representative who promises to be an independent and then votes against legislation that would help our Central Valley families achieve things like access to healthcare," he said at the event. "For far too long we have had a representative who blocks family tax cuts. For far too long we have had a representative who does not deliver real results."
Focusing on working class, Central Valley families throughout his speech, Salas sought to rally a wide swath of the electorate that has helped him win five races for the state Assembly.
"There's one thing that everybody always says about Rudy Salas," said former state Sen. Dean Florez. "Even in the toughest of elections for others in the valley, he always wins."
Salas enters an already-crowded field. Several Democrats have already announced their intention to run, including former Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio and Angel Lara, former staffer to Dianne Feinstein. Republicans Chris Mathys, a former Fresno city councilman, and consultant Martha Flores-Gibson have also announced their intention of taking on Valadao.
Both Democrats and Republicans are eager to control CA-21, which has flipped between Valadao and his Democratic challenger TJ Cox over the past three elections. Democrats are especially eager to regain control of the district as a majority of its electorate voted for President Joe Biden in the last election.
Both Salas and Valadao have positioned themselves as independent-minded politicians in an effort to appeal to undecided and centrist voters. Valadao notoriously voted to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting insurrection, one of only 10 Republicans to do so.
For his part, Salas brought up his 2017 vote against a new gas tax as an example of his willingness to go against his party's interests. The tax, in which he was the lone Democrat dissenter, ultimately raised the cost of gas and other transportation fees to pay for upgrades to the state's infrastructure.
At the time, Salas said the increased tax would disproportionately impact the poorest parts of his district.
"People that have followed my career and know me know that I've always been an independent voice, I've been somebody that's been honest, true, somebody that's had grit and determination," Salas said. "Even if it's standing up to my own party — we saw that when I voted against the gas tax, for instance — people know that I will stand up for Central Valley families no matter what."
Still, prominent Democratic leaders, like State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, attended Monday's campaign announcement, indicating that Salas has broad support from within his own party.
"We are so proud of the work that we've done in Sacramento — there's more work to do, we know that, a lot of work to do — but we are proud of the work that we've done, and Rudy Salas has been a gigantic part of that work for the past decade," Rendon said.
Civil rights advocate Dolores Huerta and Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez also attended the event in a show of support.
Salas highlighted $50 million in state funding he has secured for the Central Valley since the beginning of the year, which includes $6 million for Bakersfield College to expand its nursing program in Delano. The funding, he says, is an example of the kind of benefits he can deliver for his constituents.
"We know that the Central Valley deserves a champion, someone who delivers real results," he said. "And I'm happy to throw my hat in the ring to do that for valley families."
You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.