By Jim Ellis
April 7, 2022 — Voters in California’s Central Valley went to the polls Tuesday after others had mailed their ballots for the past couple of weeks to choose a replacement for resigned Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare); but, it won’t be until April 14 until we see certified results under the state’s elongated ballot-counting system. Votes can still come into county election centers through the mail but must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, April 5, in order to be counted.
The published results at this writing show former state Assembly Republican Leader and ex-Tulare County Supervisor Connie Conway leading the field of six candidates with 22,175 votes or 34.8 percent. The next closest competitor is Democrat Lourin Hubbard, a California state water official, posting 19.7 percent, or 12,546 votes. It is likely that Conway and Hubbard will advance into the special general election to be held concurrently with the California jungle primary on June 7.
The other candidates are Republican Matt Stoll with 15.1 percent (9,647 votes), Democrat Eric Garcia (15.0 percent; 9,574 votes), and Republicans Michael Maher (8.9 percent; 5,665) and Elizabeth Heng (6.5 percent; 4,119). These totals will change as more votes are counted, but the order of finish will probably remain constant. Republican candidates received 41,606 combined votes or 65.3 percent of the currently tabulated vote as compared to 22,120 (34.7 percent) for the Democratic contenders.
Fundraising was not a major factor in a race where the winner will serve in Congress only six months, because the new incumbent will have not have a place to run in the regular election under the state’s new redistricting map. Interestingly, the fundraising totals are virtually opposite of the early standings, with Heng having raised the most at $214,000 through March 16, but she languishes in last place in preliminary returns. Conway reported raising only $82,893 and Hubbard, $58,829.
The reported turnout is 63,726 voters with several thousand more ballots to be received and tabulated. As of Aug. 30, 2021, there were 415,442 registered voters in the 22nd District. At this point, the turnout is 15.3 percent but will go higher as more ballots are received and tabulated.
With 18-term veteran Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) facing a paired incumbent situation in a new 4th District as a result of Michigan losing a congressional seat in national reapportionment, the former House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman announced that he will retire at the end of the current congressional session. Upton’s decision brings to an end what will be a 36-year career in the US House.
Upton was originally elected in 1986, upsetting then-Rep. Mark Siljander in a Republican primary battle. He then would average 62.4 percent in his 18 general elections representing the southwestern Michigan corner, though his win percentage had consistently dropped into the 50s over the past decade. His closest race came in 2018, when he was re-elected with a 50-46 percent margin.
The legislative highlight of his congressional career was chairing the Energy & Commerce Committee from 2011 through 2016. He stepped down in 2017 due to the Republican conference’s term limit rule for committee chairs or ranking members.
Rep. Upton retiring averts an intra-party incumbent pairing with fellow GOP Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland). The new 4th contains 64 percent of Upton’s current 6th District and only 24.5 percent of Huizenga’s 2nd CD, which clearly would have benefited the outgoing incumbent.
Republican primary problems would have occurred for Rep. Upton, however, because he is one of the 10 GOP members to have supported impeaching former President Trump, and the ex-chief executive had already endorsed Huizenga. Of those 10 Republican members, four, now including Upton, are retiring. The congressman is the 21st Republican not to seek re-election, but his action does not cause another open seat since Rep. Huizenga now becomes the 4th District’s lone incumbent.