Merced County Times Newspaper
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Gray: It’s time to end gridlock, get work done to benefit valley


Adam Gray
Adam Gray

Adam Gray says the best word to describe to how voters are feeling about what’s happening in Congress is “disappointment.”

“I think voters are disappointed in their government,” Gray says. “You see what’s happened this past year in Washington, D.C. … Several times now, almost running us off the fiscal cliff, refusing to pay our bills, lowering the credit rating of the United States, and something I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime: watching Republicans side with Putin and Russia.

“Accountability, responsibility, small government, standing up against our enemies in the world — those are Ronald Reagan policies. There are Ronald Reagan Democrats in this state, and in our local area, and it’s wild to see one of our country’s great political parties just kind of abandon everything they have stood for.”

The 46-year-old Congressional candidate points to his decade of service in the California State Assembly as an example of being a moderate legislator and representative who can work in a bipartisan manner to improve quality of life in local communities.

“Valley residents are familiar with my work to establish the California Problem Solvers Caucus. I was the leader of the moderate Democrats. I was the co-author of the bipartisan water bond. I was an instrumental vote in the bipartisan infrastructure act. I spent my time trying to accomplish things, like building a medical school at UC Merced, or bringing in tens of millions of dollars to do flood plain projects to make our communities safe from floods, but also to help our farmers and the environment. Those are the types of things I think Congress ought to be doing, and instead, as I talk to local voters, they are throwing their arms up and saying Congress isn’t doing anything. And John Duarte is one of the people who ushered in this new Congress. He is one of the Republicans who ran and said, ‘We need Republican control.’ And they got it. But what have they done with it?”

Gray adds, “If we are going to be disappointed in what Congress is doing, we have to take the next step, and do something about it.”

This year, Gray is once again running against Duarte in a rematch of the 2022 election nail-biter that sent Duarte to the U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of the 13th District, which includes all of Merced County, and parts of Stanislaus, Fresno, and San Joaquin Counties. Gray, a lifelong Democrat, lost that election by only 564 votes, or less than half a percentage point. However, the Merced native won Merced County, and the entire district continues to lean Democrat.

Gray said the results also proved that a lot of people in the local region voted for his style of politics: compromise, with both parties working together.

“I think more people will be out this time around because they got a chance to see what John Duarte had promised: ‘Republicans are going to take over, and we are going to lower the cost of this, and lower the cost of that, and so on, and so forth. Well, we are all sitting here a year and a half later, and that hasn’t materialized. And in fact, it’s been written that this is the most unproductive Congress in United States history. Let’s just stop and think about that. In our entire history, this is the least productive Congress — brought to you by John Duarte.”

Gray is confident that things will be different this time after the two compete in the March 5 Primary, and more importantly, the Presidential Election in November.

“Think about this,” Gray points out, “in 2022, roughly 130,000-something people voted in the district. In 2020, the last presidential election (which tends to get more attention and turnout), 250,000-plus voted [in the same region]. That’s 120,000 who voted in 2020 but didn’t vote in 2022. That’s a lot of voters. Now we ask ourselves, ‘Who are those people?’ And we can look at that data, and the reality is, of those 120,000 voters, about 70 percent of them are Democrats and Independents.”

The candidate says his campaign has been received well by this block of voters as he and an army of volunteers knock on doors from Lathrop to Mendota in the sprawling valley district.

“What we all have in common in this district is we have small to medium size farming communities — places like Firebaugh and Mendota are very similar to places like Planada, Livingston and Delhi. This is about getting resources into these communities, raising education levels by partnering with higher education institutions, and making sure people have access to quality health care.

“I carried a bill when I was in the State Legislature to make sure that our federally qualified health clinics — places like Golden Valley Health Centers and Livingston Community Health — could be open more hours to serve more people. Too often people talk about health care just through the lens of having health care coverage, and that’s important, because we want to make sure every Californian and every American has access to quality, affordable health insurance. But in addition to having that insurance, you have to have a place where you can use it. And this means you have to have access to a doctor, a clinic, a hospital. This past year we have seen the hospital in Madera close down, putting pressure on the system in Merced, Fresno and surrounding communities. We have a lot to do in this area. This is also about bolstering our nursing programs at Fresno City and Merced College. It’s also about supporting our clinics and making sure they have the workforce needed — physicians, nurse practitioners, and assistants.”

On the campaign trail, Gray is reminding voters to see through the harsh political rhetoric that is being thrown around in a divided country, and remember why we elect people to office in the first place.

“Whether it’s a city council member, a county supervisor or a congressman — we want them to help make our lives better. That’s what they are electing you to do — to go do the work and make sure our roads, our hospitals, our schools, all those things, are improving.

“But look at what’s going on right now. Is anyone trying to make things better? You listen to these congressmen, and it’s like: ‘Well everything that’s wrong with the country is the other party’s fault.’

“That’s nonsense. We just have to do the tough work. We live in a democracy where we have freedom of opinion, expression, religion. People have different philosophies. So you have to get in a room and come up with the best deal to move the country forward.

“Look what just happened on the immigration reform effort. You had a bipartisan group in the U.S. Senate. They spent six months or more working on a bill, and they came up with an agreement that’s perfect by nobody’s standards — people on the left saying it doesn’t do enough and people on the right saying it doesn’t do enough. But it’s a compromise. and it’s better than what we got now. It’s an improvement.

“And so what happens? Donald Trump comes out and says it’s not good for my election, and then the House says it won’t take it up.”

Gray can’t help but chuckle when he talks about Duarte’s role in the great immigration debate. The challenger claims the first-term congressman has flipped-flopped on the issue during his short time in office “The entire time John has been in Congress, he’s been for and against everything. When you talk to people about my service in the State Legislature — whether you agree on everything i did or not — I gave you a straight answer, and I didn’t bend to the will of party bosses. I stood up to Democrat leadership when I thought they were wrong on water for the valley, and public safety in our community. That’s why Republican sheriffs, including Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke, endorse my campaign. They know I’m going to do the right thing, not the political thing.”

Gray tells an interesting story about how his candidacy contrasts with Duarte’s record in Congress.

“I was talking to one of the Sacramento reporters, right after John had voted for Jim Jordan — the leader of the Freedom Caucus, the most right-wing group in Congress. So Jim Jordan gets put up as a candidate for Speaker of the House, and John votes for him. He supports him. So I ask this reporter in Sacramento. I said, ‘You guys covered me when I was in Sacramento, and you watched me fight with my leadership. What do you guys think I would have done if I was in the same spot on the Democrat side, and they put up the furthest left candidate — the AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). Do you think I would vote for AOC for Speaker?’

“And you all know the answer, which is: No, I wouldn’t, because I’m not going to support extremists who want to get nothing done. They just want to scream and yell, and blame everybody else. But John has no problem doing it. Why? Because he is going to do everything he can to try and stay elected. And none of his efforts are driven from a place of principles. It’s just, ‘How can I keep the Republicans in charge, and how can I try to stay elected in a district that voted for Joe Biden by 11 points.’

“I would respect John more if he would just come out and say what he believes, but he can’t say what he believes, because what he believes is not going to get him elected.”

Gray says Washington, D.C. needs leaders who are willing to stand up against both Democrats and Republicans, and say “Let’s work together. We are all one country. We have a national interest. We are going to find ways to make our country stronger. … Everybody is always talking about fighting for something. “How about we replace the word ‘fight’ for the word ‘work.’ How about electing someone who will go to work for you because you hired that person to do a job.”

Adam Gray is a graduate of Golden Valley High School, and he attended Merced College before earning his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Gray was elected to the California State Assembly in November 2012. He was on the Committee for Accountability and Administrative Review, the Agriculture Committee, the Revenue and Taxation Committee and the Select Committee on Health Care Access in Rural Communities. Gray was also a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. He was chairman of the Governmental Organization Committee, but was stripped of his chairmanship by his own party in December 2020 due to a dispute over water rights for the valley.

Gray continues to live in the City of Merced.

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