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By Felix Adamo / The Californian
BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
John Hernandez is taking another shot at representing the 21st Congressional District, the Fresno Democrat announced Saturday.
"The voters of the 21st district are telling me that they do not like what's happening in Washington, D.C.," he said. "Shutting down our government and hurting small businesses who do business with the government. Voters are sick and tired of it."
Republican David Valadao handily trounced Hernandez for the seat in the Nov. 6 election last year after redistricting put veteran Democrat Jim Costa in the 16th Congressional District.
Valadao is a Hanford dairyman who had served in the California Assembly since 2010.
Hernandez, 44, has a background in insurance and finance and is the former CEO of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
In the primary, he'll be going up against a rival who has the Democratic Party's backing.
Amanda Renteria of Sanger moved back to the Central Valley in August after many years on Capitol Hill. She worked for Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein and for Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, eventually rising to become the nation's first Latina chief of staff to a U.S. senator.
Some Democrats worry that Hernandez's entry into the race will split the Democratic vote and benefit the Republican incumbent.
Hernandez said he's confident he can beat both contenders.
Renteria is a Washington insider who has lost touch with the valley's needs, and Valadao is aligned with the same Republicans who have ground the federal government to a halt, he said.
"He's trying to act like he's a moderate, but he's on the Ted Cruz bandwagon," Hernandez said, referring to the Texas Republican who helped lead the charge to defund the Affordable Care Act.
The Renteria campaign declined an interview request but issued a statement: "These are especially important times for the Central Valley, our economy and our country -- times that require serious people like Amanda Renteria, who is prepared to mount an aggressive challenge to incumbent Congressman David Valadao. Amanda has the energy, passion and qualifications to serve the people of the Central Valley."
Valadao couldn't be reached for comment Saturday.
The congressman has lately been trying to position himself as a bipartisan peacemaker. He opposes the Affordable Care Act, but supports compromises designed to fund the government in the current stalemate with the White House and Senate Democrats. Valadao also supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship in some instances, and broke with party ranks on proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits Program, or SNAP.
Hernandez said he's not deterred by the wallop Valadao's well-funded campaign gave his camp last year.
The Democratic Party backed Fresno City Council Member Blong Xiong in the 21st last year, but Hernandez still beat him in the primary, he noted -- and that was with a late start.
"This time around, I've stepped back from the chamber to focus on the race full-time, and we have more time," he said.
Hernandez said he's working hard to get out his message about bringing jobs to the valley and cleaning up its water and air.
"We have a message that resonates," he said.