SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. — One of the most contentious races this November election season pits incumbent Congressman Josh Harder against Tom Patti.
The election will happen in the newly redrawn 9th Congressional district, centered in San Joaquin County.
Meet the candidates
At 36 years old, Josh Harder seeks his third congressional, two-year term.
The Turlock democrat says he has moved to Tracy but says his roots have always been in the San Joaquin Valley.
"I'm a fifth-generation resident of this community," said Harder. "My great-great-grandfather started a peach farm in Manteca in 1850. Now I'm raising my seven-month-old daughter Lilian with my wife Pam in Tracy."
Harder faces Republican Tom Patti, a long-time county resident, and current San Joaquin County Supervisor.
He's also the owner of a crane-operating business.
"First and foremost local businessman, community activist, and most importantly a father in the community that I grew up in, in the community that I've owned businesses, I've employed," said Patti.
Patti says he is running in part to "bring common sense back to Washington" and to help unite lawmakers in Washington.
Harder says he's running because there's a lot more work left to go."
"We're in the midst of a drought in California and is still planning to ship Northern California here to Southern California," Harder. "We're dealing with the cost of living. San Joaquin County has grown exponentially. People are still paying five, six dollars a gallon for gas."
Meanwhile, Patti says he isn't going to the nation's capitol at "the behest of a party."
"I'm going to go to Washington on the behest of the community I grew up in," he said. "The community where I do business in. The community where my daughter goes to school in."
A look at the race
However, the race has become contentious and nasty.
In a political ad in favor of Harder, it alleges "Tom Patti took all that money for his own business."
Patti doesn't deny taking over $30,000 Paycheck Protection COVID cash to keep his business running, but Harder has criticized Patti as the only county supervisor that abstained from distributing more than $33 million in COVID-related American Rescue Plan funds in August last year.
Why did he abstain?
"Because I'm not certain this later stage of dollars and allocation to people is as necessary as being talked about and the necessity for allocation," Patti said.
In a confidential investigation by the San Joaquin County Human Resources Department addressing complaints against Patti and leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, Patti was also accused of bribery, allegedly promising "a board member at a local homeless organization funding in exchange for support of Patti's plan to build the regional homeless shelter."
He was cleared by the county’s investigation.
"It's Josh Harder's paid staff that came forward with the allegation, literally," said Patti.
But Harder disagrees.
"That's not true," He said. "But if he says he's innocent, he should support making this investigation public."
The county’s investigation did substantiate Patti "threatened both staff members and community organization members." No allegations were violent threats, but they were related to job status and funding.
Patti denies it ever happened.
"So what we have going on in this investigation first off is hearsay," he said. "Secondly, my constitutional rights were denied. I was never even interviewed."
Political experts say the Harder-Patti election has become a very closely watched race, not just here, but nationally, too.
"I think this very significant right? With the house being very, very close," said Cirian Villavicencio, San Joaquin Delta College Political Science professor. "When you look at the democrats only have a slim majority in the house, only a five-seat majority."
Political Science professor Joel Blank believes it will be a close election.
"Josh Harder and Tom Patti have well-known name recognition," said Blank. "And so what I think it will come down to is getting the vote out on that November Day."
ABC10 asked both candidates, How do you convince voters who are on the fence to vote for you?
"Ya know, we've been very clear about our values," said Harder. "Nobody is going to agree with me 100% of the issues, but were focused making sure we're making the right decision independent of party line."
"I'm working for the people where I live," said Patti. "I'm working for the people that I currently serve. I'm working for the people that for decades I've done work. I've employed and I've done commerce with my community for decades."
This race is considered close despite a big difference in campaign fundraising.
According to the non-profit, non-partisan Open Secrets.org, Josh Harder has over $7 million of cash on hand. Patti has just over $367,000 cash on hand.
However, there could be much more donated to the candidates under different non-profit names.
Patti has the backing of the Stockton Police Officers’ Association and San Joaquin Deputy Sheriffs Association, while Harder has endorsements from groups like the California Labor Federation and Equality California.
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Watch | An extended interview with Tom Patti: