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Adam Gray running for Congress
• Harder to run in different district now
Adam Gray mug 2020
State Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced

With new electoral maps set and the new year upon us, it’s officially election season — and candidates are lining up to run for office at all levels of government. 

Voting will be a bit different for Ceres voters this year as they prepare to cast their ballots first in California’s primary election, set for June 7, then in the November general election. The redistricting process brought big changes and resulted in new maps which mean new representation.

After looking at the demographics of a neighboring congressional district with a higher concentration of Democrat voters, Josh Harder announced last week that he has changed his mind about running for the newly carved 13th Congressional District. He is now seeking the 9th district that includes Stockton since Rep. Jerry McNerney announced that he will not seek reelection.

In the shuffle, state Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, will be seeking the 13th CD seat, which includes Ceres and Keyes. District reaches up to Lathrop, down through Patterson and Mendota and into Coalinga of Fresno County.

McNerney, a Democrat, has represented parts of Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties in the current Congressional District 9 since 2013 and represented District 11 for six years prior. Newly-drawn electoral maps which go into effect this election have shifted District 9 to now include Manteca, Escalon and Ripon, which were formerly part of Harder’s District 10.

News of McNerney’s retirement brought about a flurry of announcements from other Democrats in the area, like Harder, who announced he would now instead run in the now-open District 9 rather than his previously-announced campaign for District 13. 

Harder was first elected to Congress to represent District 10 in 2018 after defeating Republican incumbent Jeff Denham, and won a second term in Congress after winning the 2020 election against Republican challenger Ted Howze. Harder was born in Turlock and was able to represent the city as part of District 10 for his first two terms in office. Following the redistricting process, Turlock is now part of Districts 5 and 13 while Ceres is now in the 13th Congressional District.

Following Harder’s announcement that he would be running in District 9, Gray announced he will seek the 13th Congressional District. He’s joined by two other Democrats in the race, Angelina Sigala of Modesto and Phil Arballo, a Valley native who was defeated by Republican Devin Nunes in the 2020 election.

Gray likely has the advantage since approximately half of the residents living in District 13 have already been represented by the Democrat in the 12th Assembly District over the last decade. Gray sought to defend local water rights, helping to increase healthcare for underserved communities, reducing crime and creating jobs — all while fostering a reputation for bipartisanship during his time at the State Capitol.

“...Those fights were not always easy, but I am proud to say that we won a lot more often than we lost. Now I am asking for the opportunity to bring that fight to Washington. A lot of great people with good intentions go to DC and quickly fall prey to the partisanship that has infected our nation’s capital,” Gray said in a statement. “Anyone who knows me will tell you I have never wavered in my commitment to my constituents over my party. Partisanship will never dictate my vote. That’s not an empty promise. It’s something I have proven every day I have been in office.”

Gray stated that his priorities in Congress would include securing resources for agriculture and jobs in the Valley, building new water storage and mitigating the effects of flood and drought. He also hopes to improve access to health care and continue to fight crime in the Valley.

“Importantly, I will always support good ideas regardless of if they come from Democrats, Republicans, or Independents,” said Gray.

Arballo announced his candidacy on Thursday after originally intending to run in the special election for Nunes’ empty seat in District 22. 

“For too long, the Central Valley has been poorly represented by career politicians with connections to special interest groups and who put the people second, which is why I’ve never taken a dime of corporate PAC money,” Arballo said in a statement. “It’s time for a change in leadership. We need a representative in Congress who understands what it’s like living paycheck to paycheck. We need someone who will fight for clean air and clean water, greater access to quality health care, and a strong economy that includes lower housing costs and gives hardworking people the opportunity to succeed.”

The lone Republican in the District 13 race is David Giglio of Madera, a former high school teacher and Connecticut transplant. 

“Once elected, I will fight to pass a comprehensive water solutions package to once and for all solve California’s water crisis,” said Giglio. “I will oppose COVID lockdowns, support tax cuts for hard working Americans and oppose wasteful spending. I will defend small businesses, fight for deregulation and work to limit governmental power and secure our southern border,” Giglio said in a statement. “And now, more than ever, I will fight to give parents and local communities more control over their children’s education and be a constant advocate for school choice and work to strike down the divisive critical race theory. I pledge to work tirelessly for our Valley to help ensure it remains one of the best places in California to live and raise a family.”

The redistricting split Turlock, the second largest city in Stanislaus County, in two halves. While the west side of Turlock and a few central neighborhoods are included in District 13, the east half of Turlock, along with Hughson, Oakdale, Hickman, Denair and the east side of Stanislaus County are included in the new District 5. The new district stretches from the eastern Sacramento area, through Tuolumne and Mariposa counties and down into Kings Canyon.  

In District 5, Republican incumbent Tom McClintock is running along with fellow Republicans Scott Giblin and Anthony Estrada, as well as Democrat Mike Barkley and Steve Wozniak, presumably not of Apple fame. Kelsten Obert, who previously ran for Modesto City Council, has also filed papers for District 5.

Those who have filed papers to run in the new Senate District 4 include Republican and Ceres native Jeff McKay, and Republicans Jack Griffith and Jolene Daly, who both had previously announced congressional campaigns. 

“It is quite large, however, I am up for the challenge,” Daly said in a video posted to her campaign Facebook page. 

Griffith also made his announcement on social media.

“Our backyard’s getting a little bit bigger,” he said.

Running to represent Ceres in the state Assembly so far are Sean Harrison of Modesto, Joel Gutierrez Campos and Turlock resident Paul Danbom, an almond grower and real estate agent.

Republican Andreas Borgeas, Hughson’s representative in the state Senate, announced on Jan. 11 that he would not be running for re-election. Borgeas had been considering a run for the District 5 Congressional seat prior to McClintock’s confirmation that he would in fact be running. 

In the state Assembly, Hughson will no longer be represented by Heath Flora and instead is part of the new District 9, along with Oakdale. 

“It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to serve the nearly one-million residents in the eleven counties of the 8th Senate District,” Borgeas said. “Our team is beyond proud of what we have been able to achieve legislatively and politically in Sacramento as well as the results delivered for our community and the State of California. Anna and I would like to express our deepest appreciation to our family, friends, and everyone who has supported my tenure in public service. I look forward to remaining politically engaged and keeping up the good fight for our community in a future capacity.”

The Courier will dive into each race individually in the coming months with features on each candidate.

- Jeff Benziger contributed to this report.