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Another Democrat joins congressional race
ryan blevins
Ryan Blevins - photo by Photo Contributed

With the California primary election less than five months away, candidates are ramping up their fundraising efforts, pressing the flesh and in the case of one new candidate, just getting started.

Oakdale native Ryan Blevins has launched a campaign to represent California’s 10th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, becoming the second Democrat in the race who hopes to unseat incumbent freshman Congressman Josh Harder. Blevins joins Republicans Ted Howze, Bob Elliot and Marla Sousa Livengood as well as fellow Democrat Michael Barkley on the ballot, which has seen a flurry of activity in recent months thanks to both the new addition and Republican Charles Dossett withdrawing from the race in September.

A robotics engineer, Blevins said he was inspired to run for Congress when he realized that the threat of automation wasn’t being taken as seriously as he believes it should be by lawmakers in Washington, D.C. 

“For some reason, people in government don’t see this as an issue yet — but it is an issue,” Blevins said, pointing out companies like Amazon and McDonald’s that are replacing employees with robotic arms and touch screen kiosks. “I can see that there’s a robot recession coming.”

“I can see that there’s a robot recession coming.”
Ryan Blevins

Blevins, 25, began following politics during the 2016 presidential election, he said, and it was Senator Bernie Sanders’ message that he resonated with most, whether it be topics like Medicare-for-all or free college. Most recently, he’s admired Andrew Yang’s 2020 presidential campaign for the entrepreneur's “simple” approach to politics, which includes the “Freedom Dividend” as a solution to automation.

As a universal basic income, the Freedom Dividend would provide $1,000 per month to all Americans, intended to create a “trickle-up” economy that would solve wages lost to robots.

“In the 2020s, economics are going to be very unique. What we’re doing is adding robots to the system, but taking out a lot of jobs. It’s just adding a bunch of fuel to the fire, but taking away oxygen for the fuel to burn,” Blevins said. “Universal basic income would increase consumption and create a tremendous amount of wealth for every citizen.”

Though he identifies with progressives like Sanders and Yang, Blevins doesn’t consider himself Democrat or Republican. He’s running as a Democrat, however, in an effort to dethrone Harder, who Blevins describes as a “centrist.”

“He identifies more with people like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton — that style of politics,” Blevins said. “I’m more of an outsider to the party and he’s more of an insider.”

While they support many of the same plans, like Medicare-for-all, Blevins believes he is further left on the political spectrum thanks to his belief in more “extreme” policies, like the universal basic income and making the country’s energy sector more eco-friendly. He is also an advocate for ending the country’s “endless” wars, he added.

Despite jumping in the race later than most, Blevins isn’t concerned about how much money the other candidates have raised because his own campaign is quickly picking up speed, he said. Less than a week after creating his official campaign Twitter account, Blevins already has over 1,000 followers and is receiving contributions both locally and from other Yang supporters on the social network — something he’ll need plenty of, as third quarter fundraising numbers were released by the Federal Election Commission this week.

Howze leads Republicans with the most funds thanks to his $702,105 in cash on hand — nearly $600,000 of which the Turlock native has loaned to himself. From the beginning of July to the end of September, Howze received close to $113,000 in contributions.

Behind Howze in fundraising is Elliot, who has $199,138 in cash on hand. In the third quarter (July through September), Elliot collected almost $93,000 in campaign contributions. Livengood has $80,979 on hand, and in the third quarter collected $76,192 in contributions.

Barkley, a Democrat who has run for Congress in every election since 2012, has raised just over $2,800 to date. Harder has over $2 million in cash on hand, and in the third quarter collected $697,847. The incumbent wasn’t troubled by another Democrat entering the race, instead looking at Blevins’ candidacy as a positive for politics.

“Democracy is awesome because everyone has a chance to get involved. Getting more young people active in the political process is always a good thing,” Harder said. “I look forward to hearing Ryan’s ideas.”

Blevins is five years younger than Harder was when the Congressman announced his own candidacy in May 2017. He agrees with Harder’s notion that more youth in politics is a good thing, and believes many of the problems facing today’s younger generation can be fixed if the right people are in office.

“When I look around at our age group, people in their mid-20s, I see a lot of people who either have a high school degree and are struggling to find good jobs or those who have graduated college and are struggling to pay off their debt,” Blevins said. “It’s important to have views from all age groups, because all age groups are impacted by the policies that we implement.”