Representative Devin Nunes has been serving California’s 22nd Congressional District since 2003. The district is historically Republican, but with the April 2018 midterm elections only a few months away and Nunes causing controversy first by stepping down from leading the Russia investigation, and now with the public release of the Nunes Memo, Democratic candidates are getting their hopes up. So far, six Democrats have filed to run against Nunes, including Andrew Janz, a prosecutor from the area who believes he has a good chance at winning.
When it comes to Andrew Janz, here’s everything you need to know:
1. He’s an Attorney Who Says His Life is the “American Dream”
Andrew Janz is a first-generation American who grew up in Visalia in California Congressional District 22, the district he hopes to represent. His Facebook page says his story is the “quintessential American Dream.”
His mother, who is from Thailand, worked in a local hospital. His father, who moved to the United States from Canada, worked in a local Kraft plant and was a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Southeast Asia in the 1970s. Janz says his father motivated him to go into public service.
“My Father instilled in me at a young age the value of serving your community. He stepped up as a young man and answered the call to join the Peace Corps, I’d like to think he would be proud that I’ve answered the calls of the community and my heart to run for Congress,” he told Heavy.
Janz attended Redwood High School, then California State University at Stanislaus. There, he received a bachelor’s degree in Economics, and a Master’s in Public Administration. Janz was Student Body President and focused on improving the quality of student life on campus, including efforts to reduce the cost of higher education, expand recreational programs, and promote alcohol education and safety. The university’s chancellor appointed him to a strategic planning commission that mapped the future of higher education in California. He also lobbied for student debt relief in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
In 2008, Janz coordinated a statewide voter registration campaign with the California State Student Association. They registered nearly 20,000 new students to vote, and received the National Secretaries of State Medallion Award for their work.
While at school he was chosen to attend the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, founded by former CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Janz later earned a law degree from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, where he was a member of the Law Review and President of the Student Bar Association. He worked as a research assistant to Justice Earl Johnson, Jr., known for helping create the Legal Services Program under President Johnson’s War on Poverty.
Following law school, Janz worked as a clerk for District Court Judge Carolyn Ellsworth in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Janz, who is 33, now serves as a Deputy District Attorney with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, where he has prosecuted a number of high-profile cases and is assigned to the Violent Crimes Unit. He is a member of the Downtown Fresno Rotary Club and the Fresno County Prosecutor’s Association.
His wife, Heather Walker Janz, is from the area and owns a small mental health clinic. She is also the President-elect of the Central Valley Chapter of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.
Janz says working in a profession focused on ethics, then watching Nunes’ handling of classified information related to the Russia probe motivated him to run for office.
“I never thought I would be running for Congress. I thought my days as a student leader at Stanislaus State would be entirity of my elected office life,” he told Heavy.
2. He’s Worked on High-Profile Cases in Fresno County, Including One Involving a Veteran
Janz has worked on several high-profile cases while at the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.
In one case, Janz asserted that George Xeng Fang shot his unarmed friend twice in the back after falsely accusing him of hiding Fang’s estranged wife. Fang was convicted and sentenced to 44 years to life in prison.
In another case where Janz was the prosecutor, an army veteran was sentenced to 10 years in prison for shouting a racial slur at a stranger and threatening to kill him with a military knife and a sword. The case was controversial because of the military connection. A friend of the Timothy Alan Ray, the defendant, said military service in the 1970s turned Ray into a drug and alcohol addict.
“He’s a man of honor,” the friend said to the judge.
Ray had a long criminal history, which Janz said he had been given numerous opportunities to turn around.
“I appreciate that fact he was in the military. But that doesn’t give him a pass. The DA’s Office took this case seriously because racist behavior will not be tolerated in the community,” he said.
Another case involved a man who told police he was a shooting victim, but was instead found guilty of attempted murder.
Janz was also the prosecutor in a case involving a Fresno businessman who was sentenced to 38 years to life in prison for smashing a cocktail glass in a model’s face.
3. On Issues, He’s Sides Mostly With the Democratic Party, But is Open to Compromise
Janz is a registered Democrat and stands with the party on most issues. He has said healthcare is a right and a privilege, and argues for strengthening Medicare. On women’s health, he is against criminalizing abortion and says health care decisions should be between a woman and her doctor. He wants to promote education on mental health and stop stigmas, and supports more coverage for mental health issues.
He is for comprehensive immigration reform, as well as secure borders. “They are not mutually exclusive,” he says. This includes a visa program allowing farmers and business owners to employ labor, while allowing employees to pay taxes. He believes dangerous criminals should be deported, but argues ICE officials should stay out of schools, hospitals, and courthouses. He believes in a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, and says failure to pass legislation to protect DACA immigrants would have a net-negative impact of $274 million per year in Congressional Disctrict 22.
Janz works as a prosecutor and has said he will fight to protect federal grant money that the current administration has threatened to withhold from law enforcement agencies. “I work closely with our law enforcement partners, especially the men and women who serve and protect our communities as peace officers. Our policing agencies should not be held hostage to Sacramento and Washington’s political fights,” he says on his website.
He is an advocate for criminal justice reform, especially when it comes to increased funding for addiction and mental health issues. He supports a bail system that does not take race or ability to pay into consideration and allows non-violent offenders to be released pending trial under supervision if they are not a danger to the community, and hopes it will be implemented nationwide.
Janz argues for stricter gun control. “As a prosecutor, I deal with violent crimes daily, and as a gun owner, I support an individual’s right to bear arms,” he says. He supports universal background checks and closing private sale and gun show loopholes, and says those who are convicted of committing a domestic crime or who are mentally ill should not own guns.
On education, Janz says it is the “best way to build the economy of the future.” He hopes to expand access to education for all students regardless of race or income, and also to lower the cost of college education. He wants to expand art and STEM programs, especially in underserved communities.
Both Janz and his wife carry student loan debt, and his wife owns a small business, something he says helps him understand the burden of many Americans. He says he will work to reduce taxes on small businesses and middle class families, and prioritize research that helps create higher paying jobs in the future.
Water is a big issue in California. Janz says he will increase water storage and recharge underground aquifers. He also believes in fighting climate change and ensuring clean air and water through turning the Valley into a hub of renewable energy, which he argues will also create jobs.
4. His Campaign Strategy Ranges From Billboards to Twitter
Janz’s campaign has tried some new tactics, including taking out a billboard ad depicting President Trump and Rep. Nunes as children being led on a leash by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both Republicans wear stuffed animal backpacks, and Nunes smiles while Trump appears to be crying. “You Have Been a Good Boy Devin,” the sign reads, followed by http://replacenunes.com, which redirects to Janz’s official website.
The site http://www.nunesmemo.com also redirects to Janz’s campaign website, though the campaign did not create this stunt.
“I’m proud to be running a campaign that’s inspiring people across the nation. I was pleasantly surprised to see http://www.nunesmemo.com redirect to my site. Devin Nunes might have Russian bots doing his bidding on Twitter but you can’t beat good old-fashioned people power,” Janz said to The Hill.
On Tuesdays at noon, the Fresno County Democratic Party has been holding a vigil in front of Rep. Nunes’ office in Clovis, California. “It is a quiet, on-going, long-term presence and reminder to our elected officials that we stand strong for justice, tolerance, fairness, inclusion, actions and laws that protect All people. We are asking our elected officials to witness our presence and be mindful of the change we seek in government,” says the event’s Facebook page.
Janz has supported and promoted the event.
District 22 is historically conservative, and Janz’s campaign understands that an extremely liberal politician is not likely to win. They have tried to portray him as a regular guy who grew up in the district, who is tough on crime and has worked to send criminals to prison. His campaign website shows a photo of Janz and his wife wearing jeans and hanging out by horses.
Janz has made clear that while he’s a democrat, he doesn’t always vote on party lines.
“I’m willing to listen to anyone. … I’m going to focus on building a coalition of progressives, moderates and people who share the values of the area,” he told the Fresno Bee.
The campaign is also talking about Nunes as much as possible, especially when it comes to the Nunes Memo.
Janz tweets regularly about Nunes and has said he is a security risk. He released a statement on January 29 to this effect, saying:
“Devin Nunes is a national security risk. He has no business having a security clearance let alone the job of leading the House Intelligence Committee. I’m calling on Speaker Ryan to remove Rep. Nunes from his chairmanship. If Devin Nunes wants to continue attacking law enforcement and cover up the Russia investigation by crafting a fake narrative to protect the President, I suggest that he join the other 30 Republicans who have already announced retirements so he can take a job with Fox News as a Trump defender.”
5. Does He Actually Have a Chance of Winning?
California’s 22nd congressional district is in Fresno and Tulare counties, in the San Joaquin Valley. It includes Clovis, Tulare, Visalia, and most of eastern Fresno. In the district, 42.8% of voters identify as Republican, and 32.8% as Democrats, according to the Fresno Bee. More than 19% of voters listed no party preference on their registration as of February, 2017. The district has voted for a republican president in the last six elections, and for a democratic senator only three times since 1992. A democrat was elected to the House of Representatives in 1975, in 1997, and in 2003.
Nunes won the district with 62% of the vote in 2012, 72% in 2014, and 68% in 2016. Trump won the district with 52.1% of the vote. The Crosstab puts democrats at a 22% chance of winning the seat in the 2018 midterm elections. That said, Elliot Morris, The Crosstab’s founder, says the model can be flawed in districts where large social movements or backlash to a candidate has potential to grow. This could be the case for Nunes with backlash from the Nunes Memo. “If there’s any election where that is possible, it’s this one, but the odds are still stacked against them,” Morris said over the phone.
David Nir, the Political Director of Daily Kos, also said this election could be a special circumstance. “Out of control Republicans like Nunes have put red seats in danger before,” he said over email. “What’s more, the GOP looks increasingly likely to have no general election candidates on the ballot for both the Senate and governor’s races this year. That’ll wreak havoc on Republican candidates further down the ticket.”
Still, Morris noted that Democrats would have to be up by a significant percentage on the national generic ballot.
“The modeling indicates that Nunes would be favored to win his district unless Democrats are up by 22% in the national generic ballot. Waves can always come disproportionately in different seats so they could squeak out an upset in an environment more moderate than that, but as of now, a Nunes loss is very unlikely,” he said.
The campaign of Andrew Janz has released its own poll, showing Janz within five points of Nunes.
Nunes received a combined $3 million in campaign contributions from political action committees during the 2014 and 2016 elections. PBS reported that the Koch brothers plan to spend at least $300 million defending House Republicans during the midterms, so chances are Nunes won’t have a funding shortage.
Meanwhile, Janz has seen a boost in individual contributions, as he told Politico. “Congressman Nunes has given me the best gift a first time candidate with almost no name recognition can receive, he has made himself the poster boy for what’s wrong with Congress and put a national target on his back. I’m honored to be running a campaign that has inspired over 7,000 individual contributions from across the nation,” he said in an email to Politico.
The campaign reports it brought in more than $104,000 in January, and Janz is optimistic.
“Everyday I’m out here talking to voters and community members, they give me hope and great reason for optimism,” he said to Heavy. ” A lot of good folks here are working to improve our community. I’m glad to be counted as one of those community members.”