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Duarte says he’s standing up for working families as true moderate


John Duarte
John Duarte

Congressman John Duarte is particularly proud of an endorsement he won in the lead up to one of the nation’s most competitive House seats.

The 57-year-old Duarte secured the backing of the Central Valley Leadership Round Table (CVLRT), a coalition of Latino voters and leaders on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Many in the group are former farm laborers or the children of farm workers. They chose Duarte after they heard presentations from the Republican leader and his challenger, Democrat Adam Gray.

It was the first-ever GOP endorsement for CVLRT members who listened to the Duarte’s stance on immigration laws, a solution for DACA, water for farms, solutions for out-of-control cost of living, and “standing up to the Republican Party and bringing change” to benefit working families in Congressional District 13 — which includes Merced County.

“This is a Hispanic voting district,” Duarte says. “The families across the board in this district deserve a congressman who is willing to go to the mat with their issues — and their issues are pretty much everybody’s issues. We are talking about getting the cost of living under control. Growing American opportunity. Keeping the American dream alive, and that includes immigrants, as well as working families who have been here a while. But there is also a special need for me to show real leadership on the immigration issues. I’ve singled out the Dream Act. I’ve gone to the microphone next to some of the most progressive Democrats like Hakeem Jeffries, and stood with him on getting the DACA fixed, and giving the Dreamers an opportunity where they can come out of the shadows and enjoy full participation in the American dream. I stand with the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. I’m on with the Dignity Act with (Reps.) María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) working to bring a broader immigration reform together. So I have worked hard to see that we get some progress on immigration, and fix some of the major defects in the system. They’ve been entrenched for many years now.”

Congressman Duarte’s name will be on the March 5 Primary ballot as the incumbent up for re-election to the 13th District, which includes all of Merced County; most of the population of Madera County; and parts of Stanislaus, Fresno, and San Joaquin Counties. It includes the cities of Merced, Madera, Ceres, Patterson, Lathrop, Chowchilla, Atwater, Coalinga, and Mendota; as well as the southern parts of both Modesto and Turlock.

Duarte once again faces a tough battle in the 13th District, where Democrats hold a 13 to 14 point advantage over Republicans. In 2022, Duarte just barely beat out his Democrat rival Adam Gray by just 564 votes out of 133,556 ballots cast — less than half a percentage point. Gray is from Merced, and Merced County is home to more than a third of the district’s registered voters. Duarte lost the county by nearly 2,500 votes in 2022, but he ended up winning his first-term in office with strong support in Madera and Fresno counties.

Duarte faces Gray again this year — a presidential election year when voter turnout is expected to hit record levels.

“We are going to run it like a close race,” Duarte says of his campaign. “It’s rated as a toss up seat, and we will take nothing for granted. … I have more name recognition now. I have had community engagement with local leaders and residents up and down the district. But there will be dynamics at the top of the ticket. There will be economic issues. Border issues. Geopolitical issues that are outside our control. For those reasons alone, we have to run really hard and take this very seriously.”

Duarte says the waves of migration coming across the southern border are impacting communities across America.

“We hear from the mayors of New York and Chicago that they are just inundated with recent immigrants — huge numbers of them and the leaders in those cities have no way of taking care of them. These massive waves of migration are so unfair to so many families who have lived in the Central Valley for decades. There are many families who already live in the shadows without full documentation, and they are working jobs every day. Yet every day, we have thousands of people from all over the world that come across the southern border, paying Mexican drug cartels billions of dollars a year, and they’re getting asylum status and work visas claims. So there is a huge feeling of inequity among a lot of our longer-term immigrants and working families here in the valley, and they are being put in second place behind the waves and waves of people coming unchecked across the border.”

Nevertheless, the incumbent candidate says he stood up to his own party in May of 2022 and voted against the House immigration bill HR2 because it included a mandated, “very onerous E-Verify requirement that would have really disenfranchised many families and businesses in the valley.”

As the immigration debate continues in Washington without a comprehensive bill both sides can agree on, Duarte says he will continue to support “robust border security” while recognizing that valley agriculture depends on farmworkers.

“That’s a feeling shared by many Hispanic leaders and hard-working families here in the valley,” he says.

If re-elected, look for Duarte to support the expansion of American energy projects. “This is the path to affordability and opportunity,” he says. “Businesses will expand in America when we supply them with affordable abundant energy. That’s a very fundamental redirection this country needs right now.”

More specifically in District 13, “We are going to be looking for more surface water for our farms,” Duarte says. “We are going to look for water infrastructure and water treatment infrastructure for our communities. I have my staff working very closely with local electeds, up and down the district, trying to figure out how to tap federal resources to provide for clean water, drinking water, for towns in this district, and to get wastewater treatment facilities built out in the region. We’ve got certain communities in the district now like Livingston who have been told they can’t expand any further because of their water treatment plant is already overextended. We need drinking water infrastructure put into place, and we got several water quality issues coming up on the West Side. There’s hexavalent chromium issues. That’s the compound that was in the Erin Brockovich movie. It’s a contaminant that is naturally occurring in our geology, and the real solution is to provide more of the West Side towns with treated surface water for their domestic water needs.”

As Duarte campaigns for re-election, he says voters can check out the ProPublica newsroom and the Heritage Foundation think tank, and they will conclude that he is the most moderate, centrist, bipartisan Republican in Congress today.

“There is nobody who has worked harder for bipartisan compromise that I have,” he says.

In contrast, Duarte criticizes Adam Gray for claiming to be a moderate.

“If you look at his 10-year voter record in the State Assembly, you would see Adam as a middle-of-the-pack Democrat — and that’s in crazy California. And if you look at the high gas taxes across the state, the lack of resource utilization we have here, the wasted money on the High Speed Rail project, the lack of freeway infrastructure, the lack of real infrastructure that we need right here in the valley — well, that’s because of the one-party control that Adam Gray was a part of for a decade. He never really did stand up to his own party anywhere near as much as I have as a first term congressman.”

As for Duarte’s views on President Biden, the congressman says he supports the ongoing impeachment inquiry by three House committees.

“I’ve looked at the evidence against this president. We’ve had committees looking at this all this year. We know today that the Biden family, including Joe Biden, has dozens of shell companies with no business purpose whatsoever except to move cash around. We know that they are moving cash from foreign countries into those shell companies, and we know they are bouncing that cash among family members over to Joe Biden. So we have a president serving today who, by definition of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, is an unregistered foreign agent. That’s a felony. I am looking forward to the committees putting forward their articles of impeachment, and when they fully develop their articles of impeachment, and are ready to present the case to the American people, and Congress, I believe it will be very clear that this president is guilty of impeachable offenses.”

That said, Duarte is not serving on any of the impeachment committees. The first-term representative in the House holds key subcommittee assignments across three committees. Within the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he serves as the Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, playing a role in shaping policies related to transportation infrastructure. Additionally, he serves on the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, where he works on issues concerning transportation safety and efficiency. Congressman Duarte is a member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources, focusing on water management and related infrastructure projects.

On the House Natural Resources Committee, he contributes to the Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries, advocating for responsible stewardship of water resources and wildlife conservation. In addition, he serves on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, addressing matters related to energy production and mineral extraction.

Through his work on the House Committee on Agriculture, Congressman Duarte brings his expertise to the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Risk Management, and Credit, examining policies concerning agricultural commodities and financial support. Among his other assignments, Congressman Duarte serves on the Subcommittee on Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology, emphasizing sustainable farming practices and advancements in agricultural research.

Back in the valley, Congressman Duarte also considers himself a fourth-generation farmer, businessman, and Modesto native. He and his wife, Alexandra, have run a farming operation of vineyards and orchards together in the Central Valley since 1989. They have four children.

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