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Hear congressional candidates at local debates

It’s officially 2020 and California’s March primary election is right around the corner, making two upcoming debates between candidates running to represent the 10th Congressional District all the more important for voters.

First, District 10 constituents will have a chance to hear from the three conservative candidates vying to replace incumbent Congressman Josh Harder at the CD10 Candidate Debate Forum hosted by the Republican Party of Stanislaus County. The debate, scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 7 at Modesto’s Harvest Hall, 3800 Cornucopia Way, will feature Republican candidates Bob Elliot, Marla Sousa Livengood and Ted Howze and is open to the public.

Howze was the first challenger to come forward in the District 10 race when he announced his campaign to unseat freshman Democrat Harder in late March 2019 — one year before the primary. The veterinarian and former Turlock City Councilmember was also a part of the crowded congressional race in 2018, holding his own as the only Republican challenger to then-incumbent Jeff Denham and placing third in the primary election.

Livengood announced her candidacy for District 10 in May, just months after losing the race for California’s 9th Congressional District in the 2018 general election by a margin of 13 points. The California Strawberry Commission regulatory affairs manager was raised on her family farm here in the Central Valley and, prior to running for Congress the first time, had a long career serving in roles that focused on the region’s transportation, economic development and job creation.

Elliot, a San Joaquin County Supervisor, also jumped into the District 10 race after a recent campaign in a different area. He had previously announced in 2019 that he would be running for the state Senate District 5 seat, but ultimately was influenced by party leaders to reconsider that decision and run for Congress. He spent 30 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a colonel with the Special Forces, then held a variety of positions with General Electric Company in its nuclear energy and Homeland Protection businesses. Elliot also served on the Tracy City Council from 2010 to 2012.

The three Republicans will be joined on stage by Harder, along with fellow Democrats and challengers Mike Barkley and Ryan Blevins, during a public debate hosted by the Modesto Bee on Jan. 22 at the State Theatre, 1307 J St., in downtown Modesto. According to the Bee, the State Theatre seats 550 and those interested in attending can check back at a later time for details on reserving seats at no cost. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the forum will begin at 6:30 p.m.

When Harder took second in the 2018 California primary election, he battled it out with a packed pool of Democratic challengers looking to face Denham in the general election later that year. Now, he himself is staring down a pack of not only Republican challengers, but Democrats who would like to replace him as well.

Lawyer, ranch owner and U.S. Navy veteran Mike Barkley is a Democrat who has been involved in the party since 2012, running for Congress then as well as in 2014, 2016 and 2018. In the 2016 primary election, he finished third in voting behind Denham and Democrat Michael Eggman.  

Oakdale native and Democrat Ryan Blevins has also launched a campaign to represent District 10 in the House of Representatives. The robotics engineer 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. Most recently, presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign has resonated with him thanks to the entrepreneur’s “simple” approach to politics, and the District 10 candidate agrees that Yang’s idea of a universal basic income would help stimulate the American economy.

All six of the District 10 candidates will be on stage at the Jan. 22 debate.

California’s primary election will take place on March 3. Voters must register by Feb. 18, and Vote-by-Mail ballot requests must arrive by Feb. 25. Personally-delivered ballots must be delivered by the close of polls at 8 p.m. March 3, and mailed ballots must be postmarked on or before March 3 and received no later than March 6.

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