Earlier this year, House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes came under fire for telling the White House about intelligence reports linked to the probe into Russia’s attempt to hack the presidential election. Ultimately, the California Republican was forced to recuse himself from the Russia probe.
If Nunes thought he could run from this, he is sadly mistaken. The Democrat challenging Nunes in his own congressional district recently rolled out a billboard reminding voters that by telling Donald Trump about those reports, Nunes was effectively helping Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Nunes represents the 22nd District, located in the Central Valley. It includes the eastern fourth of Fresno, most of Fresno’s eastern suburbs, and Visalia. For most of the last quarter century, the Central Valley has been a red smudge in the sapphire-blue sea that is California. Nunes’ district has historically been strongly Republican even by Central Valley standards; with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+8, it is one of the most Republican districts in the state. Nunes has held this seat since its creation in 2003, and has been reelected seven times against only nominal Democratic opposition.
However, Nunes may have a fight on his hands in 2016. He faces his strongest opponent to date in the person of Fresno County assistant district attorney Andrew Janz. Earlier this week, Janz put up an ad along a highway in Clovis, a Fresno suburb, showing both Trump and Nunes being led on a leash by Putin.
I'm afraid @DevinNunes won't get to see this awesome new billboard in his honor since he is never in #ca22, can you help me make sure it gets in front off him by sharing this pic and using #goodboydevin ? pic.twitter.com/B5GHvroj9O
— Andrew Janz (@JanzforCongress) November 16, 2017
The ad appears to show Trump throwing a typical tantrum, while Nunes seems to be content.
Janz told KFSN-TV in Fresno that the ad was intended to remind voters that Nunes is facing an ethics investigation for trying to derail the Russia probe. He believes that Nunes was “operating more like a White House Trump staffer” than someone who is “constitutionally obligated to be a check on the executive branch.”
That’s not the only billboard Janz put up earlier in the week. This ad popped up in Fresno around the same time.
— Andrew Janz (@JanzforCongress) November 16, 2017Loading...
Janz has specialized primarily in prosecuting violent crime during his tenure in the Fresno County DA’s office. He played up those credentials heavily when he jumped into the race in April.
The fact that Janz is able to put up billboards at all is remarkable, given the historical Republican bent of this district. However, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, he has already raised over $143,400 in just over seven months. By comparison, Nunes’ opponent in 2016 raised almost no money, and his 2014 opponent raised a grand total of $36,500 for the entire campaign.
Apparently the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee smells blood in the water. In June, it announced it was targeting Nunes for defeat. The fact that the DCCC has an R+8 district in its crosshairs a year out from Election Day can only be described as an encouraging sign.
However, even before Nunes decided to bow down to Trump and Putin, this district was slowly but surely trending away from the GOP. That R+8 figure is due mostly to George W. Bush carrying the district, which was numbered as the 21st at the time, by a punishing 65-34 margin over John Kerry in 2004–Bush’s second-best showing in the state. However, John McCain only won it 56-42 in 2008, and Mitt Romney won it 57-42 in 2012. It swung even further away from the GOP in 2016, when Trump won it 52-43.
Much of that trend has been due mostly to Tulare County, almost three-fourths of which is in the 22nd. Bush took 66 percent in Tulare County in 2004, but McCain and Romney only won 56 percent in 2008 and 2012, respectively. In 2016, Trump barely won a majority, with just over 51 percent.
This is a long-winded way of saying that this district would have been within reach in any event. However, this race has a very different dynamic–an ethically-challenged Republican facing off against a very credible Democrat. The pieces are seemingly in place for Nunes to potentially get capsized in a Democratic wave. At the very least, Nunes will actually have to do some heavy lifting to keep his seat.
Janz is going to need a lot of help to pull this off. Donate to him at ActBlue.
(featured image courtesy Janz’ Twitter)