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Madueo, Zwahlen commit to Congressional race
Virginia Madueno
Virginia Madueno

Two more Central Valley natives have officially announced their candidacies for California’s 10th Congressional District: former Riverbank mayor, small business owner and Stanislaus State alumna Virginia Madueño, and Modesto School Board member and emergency room nurse Sue Zwahlen.

Last year’s election for California’s 10th Congressional District was a tight competition between Republican incumbent Jeff Denham and Democrat challenger Michael Eggman, and the 2018 election promises to be another exciting race.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is looking to unseat over 60 Republicans next year – seven of whom are Californians, including Denham. After Denham defeated Eggman last year, despite an excess of funding from the DCCC, the committee has refocused their efforts on California’s 10th District, naming it as one of the seven Republican-held areas in the state that they plan to target.

In May, Madueño told the Journal she was considering a run to represent the district, but her loss in the race for State Assembly last November (she finished third in voting, behind Ken Vogel and current State Assemblyman Heath Flora) took its toll. Initially, she said “no” to questioners wondering if she would join the Congressional race, but as both local and national organizations reached out to her to pledge support, Madueño began to reconsider.

In order to learn more about the 10th District, which encompasses Stanislaus County and parts of San Joaquin County, Madueño has since been on a “listening tour,” attending protests, town halls and other events to hear firsthand from constituents what they believe to be the most pressing issues in the area.

Now she has made the decision to try and represent those constituents, announcing her candidacy for the race Monday.

“I’ve been so grateful for the encouragement from friends, colleagues and leaders in our community who have reached out asking me to run,” said Madueño. “People ready for change – change that is rooted in the Valley and in our values. Representing my community’s voice in Washington is a big responsibility, and I am asking this district to trust me to be their voice.”

Born and raised within the District, Madueño owns and operates a public relations firm in Turlock and served on the Riverbank City Council as both a council member and Mayor. Issues that she hopes to focus on during her campaign include healthcare (she was finally able to receive healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, because of a pre-existing condition), small business development and immigration.

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, she hopes to help those she can relate to, as well as those she can’t.

“The residents I have had the opportunity to meet are Democrats, Republicans, Independents – all looking for the same thing…to be able to provide for themselves and their families,” she said. “People in this Valley are struggling to make ends meet, to provide an education for their children and to pay for basic living expenses. This campaign is not about me, it’s about them.”

In announcing her candidacy, lifelong Modesto resident Zwahlen said that politics today have become too divisive, pointing out that, much like Madueño stated, most want the same things at the end of the day.

“Our elected officials argue over who is right and who is wrong, and nothing gets done. Like so many people who live in the Valley, I am tired of the rhetoric,” she said. “It’s time to put politics aside and get things accomplished – improving our schools, expanding access to healthcare and creating higher paying jobs for Valley residents.”

Zwahlen’s 40-year career as an emergency room nurse has given her a solid understanding of the healthcare system, she said, and she hopes to bring that experience to Washington, D.C., where she can make sure everyone has access to quality care.

She also serves on the Modesto City School Board, where her input has been crucial to critical issues within the school district, like reducing school suspensions and increasing high school graduation rates. As a mother to six children, she wants to continue helping schools if elected.

“Our children deserve the best education possible to help them succeed in a changing world,” said Zwahlen.

After attending schools within the 10th Congressional District, Zwahlen also hopes to help convince those students to stay in their communities by creating jobs that provide a living wage. By supporting small businesses and helping them to grow, she will also work to attract higher wage employers to provide careers for young people and their families.

“We can no longer sit by and watch our young people leave our local communities because there aren’t enough high paying jobs,” said Zwahlen.

Both Madueño and Zwahlen will run as Democrats. Madueño will host her first town hall meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 5 at Seasons Multicultural Event Center, 945 McHenry Ave., in Modesto.