California: Twenty-First District|
Rep. Devin Nunes (R)
Last Updated May 31, 2003
Rep. Devin Nunes (R)
Oct. 1, 1973,
Col. of the Sequoias, A.D. 1993, CA Poly. U., B.S. 1995, M.A. 1996
Col. of the Sequoias Governing Bd., 1996-02.
State Dir., USDA Rural Dev., 2001
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At A Glance ·
Fresno, in California's Central Valley, between the flat Westlands and the Sierras, is a city agricultural and industrial, middle American and ethnically diverse. It is a creation of the industrial age, founded by the Central Pacific Railroad; its city fathers bred the local wine grape, developed the raisin industry and introduced the Smyrna fig. These are not all of Fresno's crops, which include cotton, lima beans, tomatoes, cantaloupes, plums, peaches and alfalfa. Fresno County produces more farm products in dollar value than any other county in the United States. Central Valley agriculture is industrial in its precision, its thoroughness and its ownership by large corporations: the vineyards outside Fresno radiate in mechanical precision, with vines just 10 feet apart and exposed to the relentless summer sun: nothing romantic or quaint here. The city of Fresno started as a farm-marketing center and as a tourists' stop-off point on the way to Yosemite National Park. But it has long since grown out north, east and west from its old downtown, and its economy has diversified.
The 21st Congressional District covers most of Fresno County east of Fresno and Tulare County to the south; 42% of the population is in Fresno County (the 21st also includes part of the city of Fresno) and 58% in Tulare. Here and there amid the farm fields are small cities-- Visalia (the largest in the district), Tulare, Clovis, Reedley, Porterville. Past Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks loom the giant peaks of the Sierra Nevada, including Mount Whitney, at 14,494 feet, the highest point in California and in the lower 48 states. This part of the Central Valley had vigorous growth in the 1990s; the district is 43% Hispanic. The 21st is the new district created by the 2001 redistricting after California gained one seat in the 2000 Census and it is strongly Republican. It may seem surprising that Democratic redistricters gave the new seat to the other party, but they compensated by making one Republican-held seat in Los Angeles safely Democratic. Within the bounds of the 21st District George W. Bush got 60% of the vote in 2000, his third highest percentage in a California district.
The congressman from the 21st District is Devin Nunes, a Republican elected in 2002 and the youngest member of the freshman class. He grew up in Tulare County, on a dairy farm that has been in his family for three generations now. He graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo with degrees in agriculture and worked on the dairy farm. He is politically well connected. In 1998, at 25, he ran for the House in the 20th District and finished second in the primary, losing by just 52%-48%. In 2000 he was Tulare County campaign chairman for 22d District Congressman Bill Thomas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. In 2001, with help from Thomas, he was appointed California director of rural development for the Agriculture Department.
When the redistricting plan was unveiled in September 2001, Nunes moved quickly to demonstrate his support. He was supported by Thomas and in time by nine other California Republican incumbents--half the state Republican delegation. His $5,000 contribution from Thomas opened doors in Washington, and many in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries supported him. At home he won the endorsement of the California Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization and a powerful voice in Central Valley politics. But Nunes had serious primary competition. The best known candidate was Jim Patterson, the conservative former mayor of Fresno, who was endorsed and well-financed by the Club for Growth. Another serious candidate was Assemblyman Mike Briggs, who worked on agriculture issues in Sacramento and expected the Farm Bureau's support. Briggs was criticized by other Republicans for being one of only four Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for the state budget in 2001; he defended his vote by saying he got large tax breaks for farmers. Nunes had help in Fresno County, Patterson's and Briggs's home base, when he won the endorsement of The Fresno Bee. In the closing days of the campaign, Nunes criticized Patterson because his northwest Fresno home wasn't actually in the new district; Patterson responded that the contest "isn't about ZIP code." There were few differences on policy. All three said that agriculture was their top priority and promised to seek new water sources. All called for cuts in taxes and government regulations. All endorsed expanded guest worker programs.
In the March 2002 primary Nunes won with 37% of the vote, to 33% for Patterson and 26% for Briggs. In Tulare County, which cast 49% of the Republican votes, he had a big lead with 46% of the vote, to 27% for Patterson and 20% for Briggs. In Fresno County Nunes finished third with 27%, but his two opponents divided the vote: Patterson got 37% and Briggs 30%. The primary determined who would be the new congressman; Nunes won in November 70%-26%. Nunes began what could be a lengthy House career with seats on Agriculture and Resources, both well-suited for the new district, plus a very good friend as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
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; Fax: 202-225-3404; Web site: www.house.gov/nunes
559-323-5235; Visalia, 559-733-3861.
- Agriculture (25th of 27 R): Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition & Forestry; Specialty Crops & Foreign Agriculture Programs.
- Resources (27th of 28 R): Energy & Mineral Resources; Water & Power.
||Devin Nunes (R)
|David LaPere (D)
||Devin Nunes (R)
|Jim Patterson (R)
|Mike Briggs (R)
For 1992 and 1996 presidential results in the Twenty-First District, please see the Almanac 2000 online. Please note that these older returns reflect district lines as they existed prior to 2002 redistricting.
- Cook Partisan Voting Index: R +13
- District Size: 8,090 square miles
- Population in 2000: 639,088; 79.9% urban; 20.1% rural
- Median Household Income: $36,047; 20.7% are below the poverty line
- Occupation: 22.0% blue collar; 52.8% white collar; 25.2% gray collar; 10.6% military veterans
- Race/Ethnic Origin:
0.9% Amer. Indian,
2.2% Two+ races,
43.4% Hispanic origin
- Click here for statewide demographic data.
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