Over the last 10 years, Merced County has been part of a congressional district that extended north, including much of Stanislaus County and part of San Joaquin County. Dennis Cardoza, who has represented the 18th Congressional District since 2003, announced last fall he would not seek another term.
Under the new maps, Merced County makes up the top section -- and the largest geography -- in the 16th Congressional District, which reaches south through Madera and to the city of Fresno. Just under half of the voters in the district are in Fresno County, and 37 percent are in Merced County. The district leans Democratic, with about 47 percent of the voters registered as Democrats, 32 percent Republican and 16 percent with no party preference.
Five people are seeking this seat. The Democrats are incumbent Jim Costa of Fresno and Lorraine Goodwin of Madera, who has twice before run for Congress and this year is running simultaneously for Congress and the Madera County Board of Supervisors. The Republicans are Mark Garcia, a winery and bail bond business owner in Stanislaus County who filed using a Fresno address; dairyman-business owner Johnny M. Tacherra of Burrel, in Fresno County; and Brian Daniel Whelan, a businessman and attorney in Fresno. (Members of Congress do not have to live in the district they represent, only in the state).
We see Costa as by far the stronger Democrat in this race and the best candidate overall. He has a long history of fighting for the valley's interests in the California Legislature and now in Congress.
He has worked to increase agriculture's water supply, improve the valley's air quality and has been a leader in the effort to make high-speed rail a reality. Costa understands the valley history and needs in a way that makes him a very effective representative. He has worked closely with Cardoza in pushing for a medical school associated with the UC Merced.
Among the Republicans in the race, Whelan is the the most articulate and best-versed on national issues. He says he wouldn't stay in Congress longer than two or three terms. On immigration, he said we need to enforce laws and secure the borders, but we have to realize that our system is broken. Fracturing families to deport illegal immigrants, leaving children behind, is wrong. "I don't believe that's American."
We hope to see Costa and Whelan as the top vote-getters next month and in a runoff on Nov. 6