By Courage California
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The Courage California Voter Guide compiles the information that allows you to make informed decisions about the races on your ballot, based on your values. Vote in every race on your ballot! It's our right and our responsibility. Please share this guide with your friends and family.
Voting has changed in Fresno County this year. The Voter’s Choice Act was enacted in the county to make voting more convenient. Changes include an expanded period of in-person early voting, every registered voter in the county will receive a vote-by-mail ballot, and every registered voter in the county is able to vote in-person at any Vote Center in their county. Have questions about the changes to voting in Fresno County? Visit your county elections website.
Depending on where you live, you may have one of the below congressional districts on your ballot.
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.
Last updated: 2020-02-25
Rep. Cox was born in Walnut Creek, California and grew up in the Central Valley, the son of immigrants. He is the incumbent, having served in this position since 2019. According to campaign materials he is running to keep his seat to continue serving the working families of the Central Valley.
In his first term in Congress, Rep. Cox has worked to secure funds for essential water infrastructure improvements in the Central Valley, to improve healthcare delivery and asthma treatment in rural communities, and to extend clean energy tax credits for business owners. He has also proposed legislation that could help dozens of cities in his district achieve safe drinking water standards, working closely with cities and environmental justice groups across the Valley to draft the bill. Rep. Cox currently chairs a subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Prior to his election to Congress, Rep. Cox was an engineer and also created the Central Valley Fund, which raises money for projects located in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout the Central Valley.
Rep. Cox has shown strong support for farmers, rural communities, and veterans in Congress. That said, he has at times voted in support of amendments that have the effect of weakening progressive legislation.
Unfortunately, Rep. Cox isn’t without complications. His eyebrow-raising business history and practices have come under scrutiny and lawsuits have surfaced accusing Rep. Cox of committing fraud and owing money to investors.
Rep. Cox is being challenged by David Valadao (R), who he bested in 2018 by less than 1,000 votes (and has his own questionable financial history). He is also challenged by Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente (R) and Ricardo De La Fuente (D). According to recent election results, it's rare that Democrats win this seat as Rep. Cox did in 2018. His track record of fighting for Central Valley families and his strong base in a recently flipped district makes him the strongest choice in this race.
Last updated: 2020-02-28
Bobby Bliatout is the son of Hmong refugees who moved to the Central Valley when he was four years old. Bliatout grew up in the Central Valley and attended Cal State Bakersfield. According to campaign materials he is running to represent District 22 in Congress because he believes middle class and working families are being left behind, while the wealthy and powerful continue enriching themselves. He pledges to focus on solving issues important to Valley families, including health care coverage, the homelessness crisis, and climate change-related threats to farmlands, water, and air pollution.
Bliatout is the Chief Executive Officer of two community clinic networks operating in the greater Fresno and Sacramento areas, which together provide medical and dental services to more than 100,000 patients and employ nearly 300 people. Bliatout has also worked as a farmer in the Central Valley, an experience that left him with a deep understanding of the challenges experienced by many Central Valley families connected to agriculture.
Bliatout is running against Representative Devin Nunes (R) who is the incumbent and has held the seat since 2003. Nunes is one of President Trump’s strongest allies in Congress, holding a seat as the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and the No. 2 Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. In addition to his extreme right-wing legislative agenda, there is strong and compelling evidence that Rep. Nunes is centrally involved in the Ukraine scandal at the center of the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Other challengers in this race include Phil Arballo (D), Dary Rezvani (D), and Eric Garcia (NPP). Arballo has been able to produce superior fundraising totals to Bliatout at this point, however, we have great confidence that whichever Democrat advances to the general will receive sufficient fundraising support, given Nunes’ trail of misdeeds.
According to recent election results, it is challenging for a Democrat to win this district. However, in 2018, Democratic challenger Andrew Janz lost by a much narrower margin than usual, suggesting that it is possible for a strong challenger to win this seat in a presidential election year, as turnout will increase for Democrats across the board. Bliatout is the progressive choice because he has a comprehensive progressive policy agenda, emphasizes a community-based approach to governance, and has key supporters that can help him win the district.
According to our analysis, Bobby Bliatout is the strongest choice for progressive leadership in office and deserves your vote.
Last updated: 2020-02-13
Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula is from Delano, CA, and currently resides in Fresno, CA. He is the incumbent, having served in this position since 2016. According to campaign materials, he is running to keep his seat because he wants to continue to work on behalf of his community and advocate for their needs in Sacramento.
In the State Assembly, he has fought to ensure farmers have access to water, address public safety concerns, create incentives to increase economic development, secure funds for improving his district’s infrastructure, and to provide veterans with the support they deserve. Arambula currently serves as Chair of the Select Committee on Regional Approaches to Addressing the State's Water Needs, as well as an additional six committees. Prior to his election to the State Assembly, he worked as an emergency room physician where he learned that having quality healthcare is important for people to have a decent quality of life.
Arambula has progressive positions as it pertains to investing in infrastructure, providing assistance to food banks addressing hunger, and increasing resources for mental health services. That said, in 2019, he was absent for key progressive votes on healthcare and other issues including the environment, housing, and labor rights.
Arambula is being challenged by Fernando Banuelos (R). In 2019, Arambula scored a 63 out of 100 on Courage Score, our annual analysis of legislator's progressive voting records. According to recent election results, Democrats usually win this seat. Though Arambula was absent for key votes on the progressive issues named above, and we know that a stronger progressive candidate would more accurately represent district 31, Arambula is the most progressive candidate on the ballot. That said, we hope to see more progressive candidates that will better reflect this community’s needs in future cycles.
Last updated: 2020-02-24
Vote YES On Prop 13, School and College Facilities Bond
This proposition would provide $9 billion for desperately needed renovations to public preschools and grade schools throughout the state, and $6 billion for construction to community colleges, the Cal State system, and the UC system. This will allow the state of California to use tax revenue to pay for improvements that local communities cannot afford.
The funding would come from bonds the state would pay back over 35 years, totaling an estimated $26 billion, which includes $15 billion in principal and $11 billion in interest. This investment is well worth the costs. It takes money, after all, to ensure that students -- especially those in districts that can’t afford major capital improvement projects -- do not have to learn in dangerous environments.
The vast majority of Democrats in the state legislature support it, as does Gov. Newsom, and the only major opposition is a group called the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. This is the group famous for destroying California’s school funding system in 1978 through another proposition, ironically one that was also dubbed Prop 13. The group spends most of its time lobbying to reduce tax rates. It has never shown any interest in supporting California’s children, at least if that means wealthy individuals or giant corporations would pay their fair share in taxes.
Critics of the measure have pointed out that the ballot measure’s language includes a provision that frees new multi-family developments around subway stops and bus stations from school impact fees. This provision will make it easier for developers to build apartment buildings within a half-mile of public transit but could also drive up the cost of new housing and take funds away from school districts across the state. Despite this provision, the measure is still supported by most education groups in the state, who believe the overall funding allocation to schools outweighs the impact of reduced funding to school districts located near transit hubs. 2020’s Prop 13 is worth the investment since it means children will soon be able to attend school in buildings that are retrofitted to withstand earthquakes and no longer have lead in their water.
We strongly recommend a YES vote on Prop 13.
Andrew Janz was raised in the Central Valley, and returned to the region after completing his J.D. at Southwestern Law School. According to campaign materials, he is running for City of Fresno Mayor to use his local influence to establish effective policy responses to homelessness and housing, public safety issues, and public spaces.
Janz is a Deputy District Attorney with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. Janz has founded the Voter Protection Project to reinforce voter rights, and challenged Congressman Devin Nunez in the 2018 midterm elections. Janz raised $9.2 million dollars, more than any other congressional candidate, and came within 6 points of unseating Nunez, an incumbent Republican in an historically red district. Janz has worked on statewide initiatives related to higher education and voter registration, was a member of the Law Review at Southwestern, and worked as a law clerk for District Court Judge Carolyn Ellsworth in Nevada.
Janz is running against candidates Brian E. Jefferson, Nickolas Wildstar, Floyd D. Harris Jr., Johnny W. Nelum, Bill Gates, Jerry Dyer, and Richard B. Renteria. Janz stands out as the progressive choice because of his impressive 2018 house run, his commitment to homelessness and public safety, and his principled refusal to accept developer donations in his Mayoral campaign.
According to our analysis, Andrew Janz is the strongest choice for progressive leadership in office.
Last updated: 2020-02-27
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