Former Congressman Jeff Denham faced a packed pool of Democratic challengers during the 2018 election, and it looks as though the candidate who was elected to take his place will face much of the same in 2020 as two more Republican Congressional hopefuls have tossed their hats into the ring to unseat first-term Rep. Josh Harder.
San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott and California Strawberry Commission regulatory affairs manager Marla Livengood have both announced their intent to run for Congress in California’s 10th District, joining the two other Republicans in the race: former Turlock City Council member and 2018 Congressional candidate Ted Howze and Modesto engineer Charles Dossett.
Livengood and Elliott were both raised on their family farms — Elliott in the great plains of Kansas and Livengood here in the Central Valley. They both also made the switch into the race for District 10 after recent campaigns in different areas.
Livengood was a candidate for California’s 9th Congressional District in the 2018 general election, but lost to Democrat Jerry McNerny by a margin of 13 points. It was her first-ever campaign after a long career serving in roles that focused on Central Valley transportation, economic development and job creation, like her time as the Legislative Affairs Manager for the San Joaquin Regional Transit District and her tenure as Congressman Richard Pombo’s Legislative Director, where she worked on agricultural policies in Washington, D.C.
“It was a great first race out of the gate, but when you look at the loss of Mr. Denham in the 10th District, it’s really a better fit for me with my agricultural and transportation background,” Livengood said. “Being someone who’s from the Central Valley, I really fit here…when you spend a campaign talking to folks door to door, you find that people care about pocketbook issues and there are a lot of hurting families in the Valley.”
Elliott, on the other hand, previously announced this year that he would be running for the state Senate District 5 seat, soon to be vacated by the termed-out Cathleen Galgiani. In the days following his announcement, however, he said that he received “new information” that caused him to reconsider his earlier decision and jump into the 10th Congressional District race.
“In discussion with friends and supporters, they’ve been overwhelmingly supportive of going in that direction. They understand how critically important it is to field a strong candidate to represent the Valley and the issues we face,” Elliott said. “Political issues being pushed in Congress now would devastate our local economy, especially our agriculture, so we need a decisive and experienced voice in the House of Representatives who can defend and strengthen our Valley values.”
Elliott spent 30 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a colonel with the Special Forces. Following military life and prior to his current stint in politics, Elliott held a variety of positions with General Electric Company in its nuclear energy and Homeland Protection businesses, and also served as program manager for Westinghouse Electric Company in its nuclear energy business.
His roles in public service, aside from the military, include his current position as San Joaquin County’s District 5 Supervisor (his two-term limit will expire in 2020) and time on the Tracy City Council from 2010 to 2012.
“Those roles have given me the experience to work on issues at the local level, and when you get right to it, all politics are local,” he said.
In addition to her past local experience with the transit district, Livengood also currently serves on the San Joaquin County Aviation Advisory Committee, where she helps to develop, plan and implement policy for the Stockton Metropolitan Airport. She is also a member of the Junior League of San Joaquin County, which has provided 8,000 volunteer hours to the community.
If elected, Livengood would like to utilize her past experiences to focus on agriculture and transportation issues important to the District, she said, as well as one topic that’s on nearly every voter’s mind: healthcare.
“I don’t know how families are supposed to make ends meet with these skyrocketing costs,” she said. “When we talk about healthcare, it’s really about representing families. When people are elected to office, they think their obligation is to write and pass bills…you have to go to bat for the people of the District.”
Elliott also hopes to focus on agriculture, he said — specifically, water. He would like to put a halt on the twin tunnels project, he said, work to provide more water storage in the state, look at programs to improve groundwater recharge and explore opportunities that would utilize desalinization.
“One of the important issues is protecting our ag industry, and that by definition includes our water,” Elliott said, adding that agriculture is the center of the Valley’s economy. “One of the things that lifts people and lifts the quality of life for everyone is the presence of good jobs and good industries that provide those jobs.”
As a County Supervisor, Elliott has helped add nearly 10,000 jobs to the Valley economy during his time on the Board, including over 165 positions to the San Joaquin County Law and Justice System to employ additional deputies and prosecutors. All of this was done without raising taxes, he said.
“It’s been very satisfying to help people do the things that will give them a better life by improving public safety and improving the opportunity to have a family and a job,” Elliott said.
After District 10 flipped from red to blue in 2018, both Livengood and Elliott believe it can be flipped back.
“I do think it can be flipped. That’s why I’m in the race,” Livengood said. “I think we all know it’s a full field and it’s going to be a lot of work…but while it will be difficult, in the end it’s going to be rewarding and a better community for all of us.”
“I think that District 10 basically believes in conservative family values, like the value of hard work and the value of a good education. All of those things, I think, are values that lead one to vote Republican,” Elliott said. “Some of the things that the Democratic leadership are now pushing don’t reflect the values of the Valley.”
With three other Republicans already campaigning to represent District 10, the pair reflected on what sets them apart from their opponents who have similar views. For Elliott, it’s his time served in the U.S. Army.
“I think that serving the citizens of the Valley in Congress would be an extension of that lifetime of public service…it’s always been an honor to serve, and that sets me apart,” he said.
Livengood also cited her past experience, noting her time spent working at the federal level of government in Washington, D.C., as well as her ag-based roots.
“I can’t speak to what the other Republicans are or where they land on the spectrum, but what I bring to the District is the fact that I know how federal policy works — not just the legislative process, but the regulatory process as well. I don’t see that knowledge and depth with the other candidates,” she said. “I was also raised on a farm and know how ag production works, as well as legislative policy that impacts ag and water.”
As a mom of three, Livengood hopes to represent families like hers if elected.
“There are a lot of families and parents who are working full time, trying to balance work and life. How do you make ends meet?” she said. “I want to champion our values of strong faith, family devotion and hard work. I know I can make our lives better here in the Valley, and this is something I would be honored to do.”
Elliott hopes to protect Valley values as well if elected, he said.
“A legislator has to represent his District and have a strong set of values,” Elliott said. “I do have that strong set of values, and I’ll work with the people of the District to serve the best interests of my constituents and I’ll stand up to folks who are trying to give us the short end of the stick.”