California GOP mayor announces US House campaign, setting up another competitive congressional race

Jul 18, 2023, 4:38 PM

FILE - Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln speaks at a public safety town hall meeting at the Faith in the...

FILE - Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln speaks at a public safety town hall meeting at the Faith in the Valley Church in Stockton, Calif., on Oct. 5, 2022. Another potentially tough U.S. House fight is shaping up in California's Central Valley farm belt, where Republican Mayor Lincoln announced, Tuesday, July 18, 2023, he will try to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. Harder in 2024. (Clifford Oto/The Record via AP, File)

(Clifford Oto/The Record via AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Another competitive U.S. House fight is shaping up in California’s Central Valley farm belt, where Republican Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln announced Tuesday he will try to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. Josh Harder next year.

Republican and Democratic leaders agree that the outcome in a string of contested California districts as speaker.

Lincoln surprised California’s political establishment in 2020 when he ousted Democratic Mayor Michael Tubbs, who had become a darling of the party’s progressive wing for starting a privately funded program to give financially struggling residents $500 a month in guaranteed income. Tubbs, one of the youngest mayors in the country and the city’s first Black leader, had support from big names like Oprah Winfrey.

Lincoln, 42, is Latino and Black. He was born and raised in Stockton and left to join the Marines in 2001. He later landed an assignment on Marine One, the helicopter that carries the president, during George W. Bush’s administration. He returned to California and worked for a private security company in Silicon Valley before returning to Stockton to become a church’s executive pastor.

In a statement, Lincoln depicted Harder as a rigid partisan who backed President Joe Biden’s agenda, leading to higher costs at the grocery store and gas pump. The announcement noted that while Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom was easily reelected in 2022, he lost Harder’s 9th district, which is anchored in Stockton.

“I refuse to stand by any longer while Washington neglects our communities,” Lincoln added, describing himself as a problem-solver willing to work across party lines.

Harder’s campaign labeled Lincoln a failure in Stockton, which like many California cities is contending with homelessness and violent crime.

Speaker “McCarthy’s grip on power is clearly hanging by a thread and this proves he’s getting more desperate by the day,” spokesperson Jen Fox said in a statement.

Harder, a 36-year-old venture capitalist, was first elected in 2018, when he defeated a four-term GOP incumbent.

The state is known as a Democratic stronghold, but Republicans retain pockets of political strength in some Southern California suburbs and vast rural stretches, including the Central Valley. Harder’s seat is one of several in the region expected to be competitive.

Like others in the farm belt, Harder’s district has a prominent Democratic tilt in terms of voter registration — a 15-point advantage over Republicans — and a large Latino population. But the most likely voters tend to be white, older, more affluent homeowners, while working-class voters, including many Latinos, are less consistent in getting to the polls.

For example, Republican Rep. David Valadao narrowly prevailed in the neighboring 22nd District in 2022, overcoming a double-digit Democratic registration advantage.

Also on Tuesday, the Democrat Valadao defeated in 2022, former state Assembly member Rudy Salas, said he was launching another bid to take the seat in 2024.

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California GOP mayor announces US House campaign, setting up another competitive congressional race