The list of people vying to succeed Rep. David Valadao in Congress continues to grow.
On Thursday, Bakersfield native Angel Lara announced his candidacy as a Democrat for California’s 21st Congressional District. The former aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein graduated from Bakersfield’s Golden Valley High School, attending UC Berkeley on a Gates Millennium scholarship.
He turns 26 on Sunday and says he is the first member of his family to graduate from college. His parents immigrated from Mexico, and worked multiple jobs to support him and his four brothers when Lara was a child.
At some points, he said his parents could not afford dental care for toothaches. Part of his motivation for running for office was the continued lack of drinkable water in the neighborhood where his family still lives.
“The solutions in place aren’t working,” he said in a phone interview with The Californian. “I couldn’t bear sitting and watching what was happening in this district.”
Lara joins a crowded group of candidates on both sides of the political aisle in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive races in the 2022 election. The district has flipped from Republican to Democrat, back to Republican over the last three elections and is seen as one of the few true competitive areas for both political parties.
Former Rep. TJ Cox unseated Valadao in 2018 before he lost the rematch in 2020. Both races were so close, the result was not known for each until after Election Day.
Valadao’s own political choices have contributed to the sense that the district could once again switch hands. He was one of 10 Republican members of Congress to vote to impeach President Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Citing Valadao’s vote as a primary reason for running, former Fresno City Councilman and Trump supporter Chris Mathys has filed to run against Valadao, the only Republican to do so at this point.
Several Democrats have also tossed their hats into the ring. Former State Assemblywoman Nicole Parra and Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio have started their campaigns.
So far Valadao has raised the most money. The Federal Elections Commission shows Valdao has $449,239.84 cash on hand, while Mathys has raised $102,261.58 and Parra has $33,042.19. The FEC website does not yet display campaign totals for Osorio and Lara.
All candidates do not know exactly how the district will look during the next election. District lines are slated to be redrawn later this year, potentially altering the political makeup of CA-21.
Cox has said he will wait to make a decision on re-running after district lines are redrawn.
But Lara is not waiting to forge ahead with his campaign. He stepped away from his role in Feinstein’s office to focus on his campaign full time.
“I was able to see the gaps in the system. Having not enough people who speak the language of the folks they represent. That is one of the things that is my priority here,” he said. “I learned so much when it comes to working across the aisle, when it comes to having policy and legislation for the benefits of the community and the district.”
He is running to help bring drinkable water and affordable health care to the residents of CA-21 as well as allow a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. As an openly gay candidate, Lara says he is excited to share his lived experience during his campaign.
“I’m just so excited to represent my community as they should be represented,” he said. “It’s a shame we don’t have a representative that reflects that.”
You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.
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