Back in 2018, the 22nd Congressional District, which covers Tulare and parts of Fresno in the the central part of the state, was seemingly up for grabs. Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) fought hard against Democratic challenger Andrew Janz, barely winning by 12,000 votes 52.7% to 47.3%. Two years later the once solid red district has seemingly turned back. In addition to experts tracking it as a likely win, the primary helped paint a picture for what’s to come.
Nunes, the incumbent, did well in March, winning with 56.1% of the vote total, showing recovery on the Republican side in a primary where many didn’t come out to vote because of no major challenge in the Republican primary. Three Democrats tracked pretty high however, with Phil Arballo winning second place with 25% of the vote. His opponents, Bobby Bliatout and Dary Rezvani, only managed 13.1% and 3.1% respectively. With Nunes preparing for a big November once again and the three Democrats spending a bunch trying to get that second spot on the November ballot, the 22nd district turned out to be the biggest district in terms of both donations and spending.
Not wanting a close call like 2018 all over again, Nunes has, in 2020 so far, raised the most and spent the most out of any other Congressional candidate in the Golden State. According to the FEC, Nunes recorded $9.48 million in receipts and $5.99 million in disbursements in the first quarter. Banks, Industry, and agricultural concerns gave the most in terms of employees and employee family members donating. While ‘Sellf’ topped the group donations list at nearly $22,000, more traditional Republican backers followed. Koch Industries had the second most given with $15,000, with investment fund organization Investment Company Institute gave the third most at $13,500.
Among individual donor sectors, retirees topped the list, giving more than all of Phil Arballo’s donations combined with $1.49 million given. Republican groups also gave a significant total of $552,000, with agriculture, real estate, healthcare, and investment sectors all giving at least $100,000 each. Nunes also led all other candidates in terms of PAC money raised with nearly $900,000 coming in mainly from business concerns. Congressman Nunes also relied heavily on out-of-state donations, with 59% of his donations coming from outside of California.
Business owner and Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board member Phil Arballo nabbed the other November election position with $1.39 million raised and $1.15 million being spent in Q1. His main opponents both raised and spent far less, with Bobby Bliatout raising $474,000 and disbursing $387,000 and Dary Rezvani bringing in $223,000 and spending $175,000.
Arballo received money from quite different group donators than Nunes, with many big donations coming from tech, union, and university employees and family members. However, like Nunes, a vastly different industry gave the most to Arballo: the Hispanic Democrat PAC ‘Committee for Hispanic Causes BOLD PAC’, which gave $10,000. Two labor unions gave $5,000 each, while big tech companies like Apple, Cisco, Facebook, and Google clocked in with over $3,000 each.
Retirees were the largest individual group donors to Arballo, giving $253,000, almost six times as less than the same sector gave Nunes. Educators gave the second most with $57,000. However, Arballo also received way less in PACs than Nunes, only bringing in $32,000. A little over half of Arballo’s donations also came from in-state, significantly more than Nunes but also much more compared to Democrats in other Congressional races.
What this means for the 22nd
Both the Republicans and the Democrats expected a closer primary. Nunes raised like hell early on, expecting a a 2018-like challenge later on this year. And all three Democrats raised and spent money quickly to nab the second spot. While it will likely go Republican, it’s not exactly a sure thing. The scare from 2018 has certainly been in the mind of the Democrats, as has the growing Hispanic population. Nunes meanwhile dug in throughout the early part of the year, even helping line up the water diverting actions that Trump ordered in February. That solidified the base, impressed farmers, and brought around some Hispanic votes.
In terms of funding, Nunes currently is sitting on a lot of political funds which will most likely be spent like crazy starting late in the summer. Arballo doesn’t have much cash on hand, but sticking close with Nunes in the polls will help with that. The coronavirus stalls have been good for Nunes. Arballo won’t get a lot of needed money through fund raisers and personal experiences while Nunes easily has the reserves to out-spend and out-campaign him. A leaner Q2 may lead to a big Q3, at least in terms of spending.
While it will most likely still be somewhat close, as of now, Nunes holds all the cards to win again in November.