By Jim EllisDec. 8, 2021 — Ten-term US Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) will leave Congress at the end of this year according to an announcement made late Monday.
Rep. Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and the man who appeared to have the inside track to become chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee if the Republicans re-gain the chamber majority next year, will become CEO of the Trump Media & Technology Group that former President Donald Trump is launching.
While the congressman, who was first elected in 2002 to his Central Valley California seat, will leave the legislative scene, he certainly will still be very active in politics as he attempts to position a new social media platform that will give right of center individuals a greater voice in the public issues discussion arena.
“The time has come to reopen the Internet and allow for the free flow of ideas and expression without censorship,” Nunes was quoted as reported in the New York Post. “The United States of America made the dream of the Internet a reality and it will be an American company that restores the dream. I’m humbled and honored President Trump has asked me to lead the mission and the world-class team that will deliver on this promise,” Nunes concluded.
Rep. Nunes’ departure creates major change in the Central Valley’s politics. His current 22nd District is one of the just seven California districts that Trump carried in the 2020 presidential election campaign.
One would think that a special election would be called with a year remaining on the term, but in a similarly timed situation in 2020, when then-Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) resigned in January, such was not the case. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), taking advantage of a quirk in California election law, was able to leave Hunter’s 50th District – like the Nunes seat, a safe Republican domain – vacant for the balance of the entire year.
Considering that the likely special election winner in the Nunes Fresno County-anchored district would be a Republican, and cognizant of the ongoing redistricting process, it is entirely possible that Newsom will again let the seat remain vacant for all of 2022.
The California draft redistricting map looks to make the 22nd District much more Democratic, though Nunes, with his long successful career in winning House elections and with almost $12 million in his campaign account, more than any Republican House member, the congressman still would have been very difficult to beat. In an open situation, however, the trends could turn more Democratic.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission will now likely re-draw the region. This could allow them to create a more Democratic-oriented open Central Valley seat, which would compensate the Democrats for likely losing a district in Los Angeles County. The state lost a seat in reapportionment and with 18 districts that encompass all or part of LA County needing more population, it becomes obvious that collapsing a seat would occur here.
A beneficiary of a new Central Valley draw could be Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), however, who represents one of the most Democratic seats to elect a Republican to the House. Valadao, after serving in the state Assembly, was elected to the US House after the 2010 apportionment, winning for the first time in 2012, but was defeated in 2018 in attempting to win a fourth consecutive term. He lost that election by just 862 votes to Democrat T.J. Cox, but returned to unseat the freshman Democrat by 1,754 tallies in 2020. Creating a new Democratic seat from Nunes’ district could result in Valadao’s adjacent seat becoming more Republican.
The Nunes resignation means there will be 37 open seats in the 2022 election, assuming a CA-22 special election is not held. This includes 26 pure open seats, seven new districts added from reapportionment, and four new seats created through redistricting draws. Not included in this count is the special election in FL-20 scheduled for Jan. 11.