Two Republicans with Turlock addresses are among the early candidates to announce they’ll challenge Rep. Josh Harder for his seat in Congress in November 2022 — a task which will require defeating the Democrat’s insurmountable pile of cash.
The fact that Harder’s campaign for re-election in District 10 has more than $5 million in cash on hand hasn’t scared away opponents, with four candidates stepping forward to be on the ballot in 2022. Two of them are Democrats, returning candidate Michael Barkley of Manteca and Angelina Sigala, a first-time candidate from Modesto.
Harder’s Republican challengers are also making their first foray into politics. Jack Griffith is a 39-year-old Beyer High School graduate and U.S. Military veteran who now resides in Turlock. Simon Aslanpour is a business owner from San Jose who bought a house in Turlock in June 2020 and splits time between the two zip codes. Turlock residences aren’t all they share, however, as both said they’re tired of being let down by those in power.
After starting a non-profit to help local veterans with legal consultation in 2016, Griffith said he frequently sought help from local politicians but was often left hanging.
“That really bummed me out, and it got me to the point where I realized that politicians aren't here to solve problems,” Griffith said. “They’re just here to shift problems, because they solve them, why do we need them?”
As a Purple Heart recipient, Griffith knows the struggles of returning home post-war and the suffering which often accompanies it, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’d like to focus on veterans’ rights if elected, as well as issues like the overtime tax, which he sees as hurtful to businesses, and immigration reform which includes an achievable pathway to citizenship for immigrants.
Aslanpour is an immigrant himself and came to the United States from Iran in 2000. He describes himself as a conservative Christian and didn’t like how the government responded to the pandemic with control, he said. He moved to Turlock during the pandemic and was drawn to the area because of its Assyrian population and “conservative views.”
“That made me want to live there more than I lived in the Bay Area, so I decided to run for that district because I think the people of District 10 deserve a conservative voice,” Aslanpour said.
Aslanpour’s top issues include immigration (he wants to make sure people come here legally, he said), addressing crime and election integrity.
Both candidates are aware of Harder’s expanding wallet; the Democrat raised nearly $2 million in 2021’s first half according to Federal Elections Commission data. Though there are still 16 months until the midterm election next year, the pair of grassroots campaigns will need to start knocking on doors now if they want to make an impact.
“I'm going to have to talk to people. I'm going to have to utilize social media to the best of my ability, because even if I got lucky, there's no way that I could pull $5 million out of this district to compete,” Griffith said. “Some people listen to the radio and they hear the same ads all the time, but having the person in front of you is a bigger benefit so I'm going to do more walking and I'm going to be as transparent as possible.”
“I mean, money is very important. But then it's also what you do for the people in your district that is important as well,” Aslanpour said. “I'm hoping to get my voice out there and just have the people of that district decide what voice they want in the House.”
Harder defeated Republican challenger and former Turlock City Councilman Ted Howze by over 10 points in 2020, two years after beating longtime Republican incumbent Jeff Denham in 2018 as a first-time candidate.
The Journal will continue coverage as candidates emerge and Saturday’s issue will feature Democratic candidates Michael Barkley and Angelina Sigala.