Democratic challengers have already lined up to oppose Congressman Jeff Denham in 2018 and several more have recently tossed their hats into the ring, ensuring a contentious path to the primary election as campaigns begin to heat up.
Since the Journal featured Turlock native and investor Josh Harder, Tracy nurse and former Riverbank City Council member Dotty Nygard and former Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno as congressional hopefuls (Madueno as a potential candidate) in May, others have since announced their campaigns to attempt flipping District 10 from red to blue next year. The list has grown to include Modesto engineer and small-businessman TJ Cox, lawyer, ranch owner and U.S. Navy veteran Mike Barkley, Modesto attorney Lisa Battista and Modesto native Seth Vaughn.
Cox is no stranger to Congressional races. He ran for Congress in 2006 in what was then known as the 19th District, encompassing Turlock and the eastern half of Stanislaus County, and lost to Congressman George Radanovich, who Denham replaced in 2011.
In a district that’s main concern is healthcare, Cox considers himself the right person for the job. He is the founder of the Central Valley NMTC Fund, which invests in socially and economically disadvantaged communities throughout the Valley, such as community health clinics and agricultural education programs. Since 2011, he has invested over $65 million into projects in the area, creating over 1,500 jobs, and the organization’s health clinics have delivered health care to 26,000 Valley residents – something he deems vital in times when uncertainty surrounding Medi-Cal is a constant in the back of many constituents’ minds.
“Denham is not representing the values of this district,” said Cox. “You can’t vote to take away health care from 50 percent of your district, then say you’re for the district. Over the past six years, I’ve been building health clinics and Denham is voting to shut them down.”
The 10th District is essentially split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans, and Cox hopes that his platform is one that both parties can relate to.
“I have a lot of cross-party appeals,” said Cox. “I’m not a guy that believes labor and business are diametrically opposed. It’s good to have a well-paid, healthy workforce…clean air is good business, clean water is good business and a clean environment is good business. There are a lot of reasonable people on both sides that are going to look at someone like me and relate.”
Despite the growing number of Democratic candidates looking to unseat Denham, it is Cox’s experience which he believes sets him apart from the others.
“There’s a huge pack of Democrats saying that they want to create jobs and improve health care access,” he said. “These are all things that I’ve done and have proven success doing, so welcome to the party.”
Barkley has been involved in the “party” since 2012, having ran for Congress five years ago. Since then, he has also unsuccessfully headed Congressional campaigns in 2014 and 2016, most recently finishing third behind Denham and Michael Eggman last year.
During an open candidate forum prior to the 2016 primary election, Barkley described himself as “socially liberal, but financially conservative.” His campaign themes include restoring manufacturing, immigration reform and fully-funded programs that support both the College for All Act and a Public Option health insurance in all jurisdictions. He also supports the Black Lives Matter movement, and hopes to improve the state’s water rights.
“Recent years have been grim for many in this country; implementing proposals like these will help,” states Barkley on his campaign website.
Battista had never considered running for office prior to the 2016 election, but her website states that she was inspired to run in order to achieve a Democratic majority in Congress in 2018 and will do everything in her power to make it happen.
“I’m here because I’m profoundly afraid for our country and our world if we continue on the reckless and destructive path that is being set up by the Trump administration and representatives like Jeff Denham who are ailing to speak out against it,” she said.
Battista has worked as an attorney in the areas of employment discrimination and legal ethics. If elected, she hopes to develop and implement a universal healthcare program, revamp the tax code so that it serves the poor and middle class, create jobs and focus on comprehensive immigration reform.
“I am a strong, persistent woman with a lot of energy and passion for work that makes people’s lives better,” said Battista. “I look forward to putting these qualities to work for the people of District 10.”
Vaughn, a Turlock native who once attended Brown Elementary School before moving to Modesto, is a researcher for government technology firms in Sacramento. He hopes to put an end to the influence that donors have over elections by refusing out-of-district donations, and has pledged to donate any leftover money from his campaign to local charities.
Some of Vaughn’s top campaign issues include establishing universal healthcare and controlling prescription drug costs, establishing a legal status for peaceful immigrants who contribute to the economy and improving the District’s unemployment rate.
“For too long the Central Valley has been neglected by Republicans in Congress and Democrats in California. Instead, they have ignored ‘We the People’ and done the bidding of their donors and their parties,” said Vaughn. “It’s time to take our voice back and get our country working for us.”