Local Politics

Friday, Mar 28 2014 11:59 AM

Valadao, Renteria trade barbs over taxes, immigration

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, participated in a forum at Beale Memorial Library on Feb. 20 for candidates running for his 21st Congressional District seat. The forum also included Democratic challengers John Hernandez of Fresno and Amanda Renteria of Sanger.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Democrat Amanda Renteria answers a question as part of a forum Feb. 20 at the Beale Memorial Library for candidates running for the 21st Congressional District. The forum also included Democrat John Hernandez and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, who currently holds the seat.

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

The congressional campaigns of incumbent David Valadao and challenger Amanda Renteria -- and their supporters -- exchanged a flurry of snark this week over underpaid taxes and immigration reform.

Valadao's allies dinged Renteria -- one of two Democrats in the race -- for a small property tax underpayment.

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Renteria's campaign attacked Valadao, R-Hanford, for failing to support an effort to force a House vote on immigration reform that even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said would never succeed.

Welcome to the 21st Congressional District race.

The mini-tempest started with a Tuesday story on the website of the conservative-leaning D.C. publication The Washington Examiner that pointed out 2013 property taxes were underpaid on a home Renteria and her husband own northeast of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Renteria lived there while she worked as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. She moved back to Sanger in Fresno County, where she grew up, to run for Congress.

Democrat John Hernandez of Fresno is also running in the congressional contest.

According to records on the website of the District of Columbia's Office of Tax and Revenue, Renteria and her husband, Patrick Brannelly, paid $3,587.34 in property taxes on the two-bedroom, one-bathroom row house on 7th Street in D.C. for the 2013 year.

The records show the first half of the 2013 property taxes -- due in March of that year -- were pre-paid in September 2012. The second half was made in September 2013 -- and was $293.67 too small.

A penalty of $29.37 and interest in the amount of $26.43 were assessed against the property.

The National Republican Congressional Committee quickly piled on, sending out the Examiner story to reporters.

"Amanda Renteria has spent her career working to increase taxes on middle-class families, yet she hypocritically failed to pay taxes on her swanky Washington row house," wrote Tyler Houlton, deputy policy director and policy press secretary for the NRCC in an email.

Valadao's campaign, asked for comment on the story, responded with an email of its own.

"Our opponent and her liberal allies don't represent Central Valley values. Those in glass houses with unpaid tax bills shouldn't throw stones," wrote campaign spokesman Tal Eslick.

Renteria's campaign team responded to The Californian with an explanation -- her mortgage company, not she, handled property tax bills. Representatives of Cole Taylor Mortgage, speaking about Renteria's private information with the permission of her campaign, confirmed that their company handles all bills and payments of the property taxes on the 7th Street property.

"There was an error between the mortgage company and the local government, and it has already been corrected," Renteria campaign spokeswoman Emily Nowlin wrote to The Californian.

She released a screen grab from the Office of Tax and Revenue website showing the confirmation of the $349.47 payment -- covering the underpayment, penalty and interest -- made on Tuesday to clear up the shortfall.

Then Renteria's team struck back.

"The National Republican Congressional Committee is simply trying to distract voters from the fact that David Valadao is refusing to sign onto the Demand a Vote petition that would allow an immediate vote on immigration reform," Nowlin wrote.

Then both the Renteria campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee attacked Valadao's record on immigration.

"I'm deeply disappointed by the fact that David Valadao once more failed to stand up to Speaker Boehner and House Republicans and demand a vote on comprehensive immigration reform," Renteria was quoted as saying in a press release.

The DCCC, the Democratic counterpart to the RNCC, sent a couple of press releases highlighting Valadao's vote against the Dream Act while he was in the California Assembly.

But the salvos were aimed at Valadao's handling of what the New York Times called "a long-shot legislative maneuver" by Democrats -- called a discharge petition -- aimed at short-circuiting Republican control of the House and bringing immigration reform legislation to a vote in the House.

Immigration is a central issue in the heavily Latino 21st Congressional District.

Valadao has positioned himself carefully as an immigration-reform supporter by co-sponsoring an immigration bill most other Republicans oppose.

But Valadao refused to sign onto the Democrats' petition to get that legislation to a vote.

Valadao "has been extremely vocal on his support of bringing H.R. 15 to the House floor for consideration and was one of only three Republicans to co-sponsor the legislation," wrote Valadao Communications Director Anna Vetter in response to reporter questions.

But Vetter stated that Valadao says the discharge petition is just a political gimmick.

"Congressman Valadao is focused on achieving a real solution to our broken immigration system, and will not be sidetracked from this goal due to political gimmicks, such as this legislatively unproductive discharge petition."

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