Modesto can breathe a huge sigh of relief that Devin Nunes won’t represent our area in Congress after all.
My question: Will Democratic Rep. Josh Harder of Turlock give back the money he’s raised from people he freaked out with scare-tactic requests for donations?
During the three weeks in which it appeared that the Republican Nunes might challenge him, Harder’s political machine has been in overdrive, churning out no less than 14 email blasts breathlessly pleading for money to prepare for the Nunes threat. Samples:
“(Nunes is) just about as extreme as they get. He’s claimed that `global warming is nonsense.’”
“He’s Trump’s #1 spokesperson on Fox News, even saying Republicans’ top priority must be protecting Trump and all he stands for.”
“With $12 million in the bank, Nunes already has a huge warchest ready to attack us! This could seriously cost us our House majority if we don’t fight back right away. Will you please rush in the biggest donation you possibly can to protect Josh’s seat today?”
“We can’t screw this up or we risk losing our House majority to the QAnon Caucus. “
“Any day now, Devin Nunes is going to jump into this race with his $12 million warchest and his huge right-wing following. It’s going to be a real challenge.”
“You know Nunes as the extremist Republican who is on Fox News all the time defending Donald Trump and the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election.”
“Donald Trump actually awarded Nunes the Presidential Medal of Freedom for defending him during Robert Mueller’s investigation!”
“Nunes has always been a threat to our democracy, but now he’s a threat to us directly here in California’s 10th district. He plans to run against Josh so he can stop any momentum we have on major issues like economic justice, immigration reform or climate change.”
“Having an extreme Trump Republican like Nunes representing our district would be an absolute disaster for our community, and we have to fight back!”
Let’s be clear: All of Harder’s warnings have merit. I issued my own, in a Nov. 16 column I wrote when we learned that Nunes was looking for a soft landing in our area should new redistricting boundaries dissolve the heart of his current base down south in Tulare County.
“The last thing Modesto needs is a hard-right Trump sycophant known for suing journalists and fictional cows who never has had anything to do with us pretending to look out for our needs in the nation’s capitol,” I wrote at the time. And I stand by it.
Potential redistricting disaster
The California Citizens Redistricting Committee could adopt crazy boundaries when commissioners produce final maps in a week or two. That would be disastrous for Modesto and Turlock, which could be thrust into an impossibly large, heavily Republican district covering mostly mountain counties from Lake Tahoe to Death Valley, except for a finger grabbing Modesto, Turlock and a few nearby towns.
Or, commissioners could do the right thing and stick with something close to current Congressional District 10 boundaries: All of Stanislaus County, plus south San Joaquin County. That would keep disadvantaged communities together rather than forcing them into a district that would be 90% white.
In any case, Nunes’ Monday retirement announcement must have been music to Harder’s ears.
Harder’s campaign isn’t exactly poor, mind you. He managed to raise $7.5 million for his 2020 campaign against Republican Ted Howze, and as of Sept. 30, Harder had $5.7 million more for his current run. None of his six opponents at that time (Nunes wasn’t among them) had more than $2,100.
The former venture capitalist knows how to attract money — big money. Harder wasn’t about to waste a golden gold-raising opportunity presented by the genuinely scary prospect of a far-right carpetbagger representing Modesto in Congress.
But the answer to my initial question about Harder returning the money he’s raked in the past three weeks is simple.
I wouldn’t bet on it.