Esmeralda Soria was born and raised in the central San Joaquin Valley, the daughter of Mexican immigrant farmworkers. She continues to live in the Valley, where she currently represents Council District 1 on the Fresno City Council. According to campaign materials, Councilmember Soria is running to represent CD 16 because she believes it's time for new leadership that will make Congress work for Central Valley families -- not corporations and powerful special interests.
Councilmember Soria was elected to the Fresno City Council in 2014 and became the first Latina in the history of the City of Fresno to be elected as Council President in 2018. During her tenure, Councilmember Soria focused on creating opportunities and improving the quality of life for Fresno's families. She helped create thousands of jobs, expanded Fresno City College campuses in the city's two most low-income neighborhoods, and brought the first universally accessible park to the Central California region.
She has been a notable positive influence in other areas as well, including housing and homelessness, where she has worked with community members and developers to bring hundreds of new housing units to Fresno. At the same time, some constituents have raised thoughtful concerns over those votes, viewing them as too friendly to local developers.
Soria has proclaimed to be "unapologetically progressive," but her opposition has suggested otherwise pointing to her "business friendly" votes, and lack of support for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. While she supports the major principles of both and acknowledges the need for progressive healthcare and environmental policies, she believes alternative solutions would better serve Californians.
In 2019, Councilmember Soria was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to serve on California's newly created Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force where she is one of six elected officials overseeing California's new $1 billion budget to solve homelessness in California. Councilmember Soria is also a professor at Fresno City College, and chair of the Redevelopment Agency and the Fresno Revitalization Corporation.
Councilmember Soria is challenging incumbent Representative Jim Costa (D), who has consistently opposed progressive priorities -- siding with corporate lobbyists and failing his constituents on immigration and the environment. In fact, Rep. Costa is the fifth most Trump-friendly Democrat in all of Congress according to FiveThirtyEight.com's analysis of his voting record, supporting Trump's priorities far more often than his constituents. He is also known for having co-authored Costa-Hawkins, the state rent control ban from the 1990s that has exacerbated CA's affordable housing crisis.
Other candidates in this race include Kevin Cookingham (R), and Kimberley Elizabeth Williams (D). While Williams is more ideologically aligned with Courage California given her clear unequivocal support for Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal, polling data shows there is no path for her to make the top-two in the March 2020 primary. Councilmember Soria is the only strong, viable Democratic challenger who can unseat Rep. Costa in this election cycle. Based on extensive conversations with local grassroots activists and organizations such as Dolores Huerta, Communities for a New California Action Fund, the Central Valley Progressive PAC, and Valley Forward, we believe Councilmember Soria is noteworthy in a crowded field as the strongest choice for progressive support. Her track record as a champion for Central Valley families and as an advocate for her region's priorities in California's gubernatorial administration is very strong.
Voting for Councilmember Soria is an opportunity to elect a legislator who will dramatically improve the representation of her district in Congress. Courage California strongly endorses Councilmember Soria for Congress.