Two Republicans and two Democrats are among the early candidates to announce they are challenging 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, perennial 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. 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.
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 who came to the United States from Iran in 2000. A conservative Christian, he doesn’t like how government has responded to the pandemic with control. 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,” said Aslanpour.
His top issues include immigration (he wants to make sure people come here legally), addressing crime and insuring election integrity.
Both candidates are aware of the incumbent congressman’s campaign war chest; 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,” said Griffith. “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. 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.”
Aslanpour said while “money is very important,” winning is also about “what you do for the people in your district. He added: “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 was elected to Congress in 2018 after he defeated Republican incumbent Jeff Denham. He went on in 2020 to defeat Republican Ted Howze in a 55.2 percent to 44.8 percent outcome.
The 10th District encompasses all of Stanislaus County as well as portions of San Joaquin County, including Ripon, Escalon and Manteca.
Mike Barkley of Manteca and Angelina Sigala of Modesto will both challenge Harder as Democratic candidates, though Barkley said he doesn’t plan to appear on the ballot because Harder has too much funding behind him. The Navy veteran and lawyer first ran for Congress in 2012 and had headed unsuccessful campaigns in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.
Despite his plans to not appear on the ballot, Barkley said he will campaign once again “just in case” Harder drops out of the race. He describes himself as a progressive Democrat with a platform that includes Medicare for all, combatting climate change, addressing water shortages, Black Lives Matter and repealing the Second Amendment.
“This has not been about me. This is about the proposals in my platform listed below,” Barkley says on his website. “Recent years have been grim for many in this country; implementing proposals like these will help.”
In the 2020 primary election, Barkley came in fourth place behind Republican candidate Bob Elliott with 5,561 votes, or 3.5 percent of the votes. Harder and Republican Ted Howze were the top two vote-getters, respectively, and advanced to the general election.
This year, Harder has over $5 million in cash on hand according to Federal Election Commission data. Barkley reported just over $450 as of the most recent filings.
Also running is Sigala, another progressive who felt compelled to make a bid for Congress after spending years as a vaccine advocate and infectious disease expert following the death of her sister from the swine flu in 2015. She said that although she believes Harder is doing a fine job as congressman, she believes her connection to the community and dedication to transparency will make her an accessible figure for those looking to answers to their problems.
She hopes to tackle homelessness head on if elected, she said, as she’s seen firsthand the impact of the issue on her Modesto community, and believes veterans in the area need more help than they’re receiving.
“I’ve lived through everything that people are living through in this county, so I know firsthand if I can make those changes,” said Sigala. “I know that people will believe in me and vote for me.”