By The Fresno Bee Editorial Board | October 20th, 2020 at 10:29am PST
In advance of the March primary, The Bee recommended Phil Arballo for the 22nd Congressional District over incumbent Devin Nunes. There were excellent reasons to choose Arballo then, and those remain true today.
Arballo’s life experiences are similar to those of many people living in the 22nd District. Raised by a single mother, he graduated from Bullard High School, then became the first in his family to graduate from college, at Fresno State. Today, he is married with two young children and owns a financial services business. He’s a Latino Democrat, with grandparents who immigrated from Mexico for better opportunities here. His ethnicity is relevant in a district where 47% of the residents are Hispanic.
Arballo, 41, supports universal health care, a key need in a district that is one of the poorest in the nation — 16.5% of the population lives below the poverty line. He thinks pre-existing health conditions should be covered.
“COVID-19 has exposed a lot of cracks in the health care system,” Arballo told the editorial board. “I am someone looking to make health care more accessible and affordable, expanding Medicare and Medicaid, bringing down prescription costs and making sure premiums are more affordable.
“My opponent has voted multiple times to take away health care from millions.”
Arballo understands the economic impact of COVID-19 it firsthand: His wife lost her job doing Spanish translating and interpreting for schools when campuses closed at the start of the pandemic. “We waited four months to get unemployment” benefits, he said.
Arballo believes in job training, comprehensive immigration reform and better financial support for higher education so students are not burdened with huge debt upon graduation. He wants to repair the San Joaquin Valley’s water delivery systems that farmers depend on so they can get the supplies they need, while also improving drinking water systems that have failed in many small communities.
WHY NOT NUNES
There are numerous reasons not to return the Republican and former dairy operator Nunes to the post he first won in 2002.
For starters, Nunes, 47, continues to ignore his district. He has not held a true gathering with constituents for years, showing little interest in hearing from anyone who is not a supporter or part of his conservative media echo chamber. He did not respond to an invitation to interview with the editorial board.
Second, Nunes has been a source of misinformation regarding the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian operatives as they sought to disrupt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Nunes has routinely smeared Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign. To Nunes, like President Donald Trump, the investigation was nothing more than “a hoax.”
The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian involvement found, among other things, that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on numerous occasions sought to share campaign information with a man who was a Russian intelligence officer.
When a new threat to the nation’s health emerged in late winter — the coronavirus pandemic — Nunes was in denial mode and even encouraged residents in the 22nd District to keep going to restaurants so that businesses could stay open. This was despite warnings from federal health officials that social gatherings were a key way infections were spread. And this was despite the fact that Tulare County in the early months of the pandemic led the Valley in numbers of people dying from the disease.
A recent mailer paid for by Nunes’s campaign also makes outlandish, untrue claims about Arballo. One says he is a “socialist activist” being paid to run against Nunes; on the flip side, it takes Arballo tweets out of context to make it look like he supports overturning and vandalizing police cars, rioting and looting in connection with demonstrations.
It is campaigning at its cynical worst — and from a candidate running for the 10th time for a district that is majority Republican in voter registration. The ad is beneath a politician with a safe seat and the national profile of Nunes.
Should Nunes win again, 22nd District residents will get to see him — via regular appearances on Fox News, but never locally.
To re-establish a working relationship with their congressional representative, voters should elect Phil Arballo. He is sincere about putting the district first, and as a Hispanic son of the Valley, is more in tune with its needs than the absent incumbent.
HOW THE BEE CAME TO THIS RECOMMENDATION
The Bee’s Editorial Board consists of Publisher Tim Ritchey, Editor Joe Kieta, Opinion Editor Tad Weber, Vida en el Valle Editor Juan Esparza Loera, and Vida Staff Writer Maria Ortiz-Briones. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the board held an interview via Zoom with Phil Arballo;Rep. Devin Nunes did not respond to an invitation. Additional research about the candidates was also done using publicly accessible online sources and The Bee’s archives. Candidates must meet with the board to earn a recommendation.
The recommendation is just that: a helpful opinion meant to guide readers as they reach their own decision on which candidate to choose. This recommendation is the opinion of the Editorial Board; the news staff does not play any role in its creation.