California 22nd District
At the southern end of California’s Central Valley is Bakersfield. It has been the focus of great migrations four times—in the gold rush of 1885, in the boomlet that followed the discovery of oil in 1899, in the 1930s flight of Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas and in a flood of newcomers in the 1980s and 1990s, when Bakersfield and Kern County grew more rapidly than California’s biggest metro areas. The migration that made the deepest imprint was in the 1930s. The Okies drove over a thousand miles of brown landscape, then through the Tehachapi Pass, and found this vast green valley, with its irrigated fields and its eucalyptus-shaded towns—the richest farming country in the world. The story is told vividly in novelist John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and in Dan Morgan’s Rising in the West, which explains how the migrants prospered in California.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The area around Bakersfield is one Southern-accented part of California, the home of country singers Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and a thriving country-music scene. People here are culturally conservative with little empathy for Los Angeles-style flamboyant liberalism. But Bakersfield’s personality may be diluted as Southern California spreads north. And city officials are intent on expanding its boundaries. Developers are working on Centennial, a master-planned new town of 70,000 scheduled to be under construction in 2011 on land that has been used for cattle grazing for more than a century.
The 22nd Congressional District of California, the southernmost district in the Central Valley, includes most of Bakersfield and Kern County, plus most of the land area of San Luis Obispo County and a slice of northern Los Angeles County, including half the desert town of Lancaster and the tiny desert town of Gorman. At the eastern end, in the Mojave Desert, is Edwards Air Force Base, where Chuck Yeager flew the X-1 and where the Space Shuttle has frequently landed. The 22nd includes oil fields and high-income subdivisions. The rich farmland produces most of the olives grown in the United States and more than 70% of the carrots (this is where the baby carrot was born). Politically, Kern County was Democratic territory, but by the late 1960s, it had become solidly Republican in national politics. The inland portion of San Luis Obispo County has always been Republican. George W. Bush won 68% of the vote in the district in 2004, his best showing in any California district. Republican presidential candidate John McCain won 60% in 2008 to 38% for Democrat Barack Obama, McCain’s best district in the state.