STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. — After a tightly fought battle in 2018, Democrats and Republicans in California’s 10th Congressional District find their roles reversed, with Democrats trying to hold the battleground district they won two years ago.
District 10 includes parts of San Joaquin County and all of Stanislaus County. While generally considered a “purple” district, it was Republican-dominated for years under former congressman Jeff Denham.
The 2018 election saw then-candidate Josh Harder overtake Denham to turn the district blue for that year.
His challenger, Republican Ted Howze, is a familiar face for the area. He’s a former Turlock City Councilmember, known for his work on the Turlock Regional Industrial Park and as a large animal veterinarian.
Howze made headlines back in May after a Politico story unearthed old social media posts from January 2017 to March 2018. Politico reported that the posts “demeaned Muslims, accused prominent Democrats of murder, and mocked a survivor of the Parkland school shooting.”
Howze told Politico that the posts were written by others who had access to his accounts, called the posts “negative and ugly ideas,” and said they didn’t represent his values.
Months later, Howze told ABC10 that he doesn’t believe the Politico story impacted his campaign and that he continues to garner support.
“We know the truth,” Howze said. “This community knows the truth. It knows me. It knows my family. It knows what we stand for.”
Harder: “We’ve got to get this pandemic under control," Harder said. "We’ve got to get people back to work. The Central Valley was hit hard by COVID. We’re always the first to suffer and the last place to recover.”
Harder placed emphasis on testing and PPE to help get the pandemic under control and also advocated support for small businesses. He said the CARES Act provided support for more than 70,000 jobs in the Central Valley.
"But that has expired, that money has already passed," he said. "We need to do it again to make sure that everyone can get a chance to work hard and get back to work as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
Howze: Touting a background in epidemiology and as a large animal veterinarian, Howze said he’s versed in what goes into protecting populations.
“Moving forward, I think we’re on the right track,” Howze said. “We’re working to get a vaccine created that’ll protect people. I think that we certainly need to see in this valley another round of stimulus. It helps small business owners, not large businesses. It needs to go to those small hair salons and personal service businesses that have essentially been shutout since March.”
Harder: Harder emphasized two key points on mitigating wildfires, addressing climate change and forest management.
"It’s no question that because the seasons are getting warmer, conditions are getting drier, that we are seeing more and more wildfires,” he said.
Harder also believes forest maintenance will play a factor in mitigating the impacts of California's wildfires.
“We have not done a good enough job making sure that our forests and our areas all across the state are being maintained and having the controlled burns necessary,” he said.
Howze: Touting experience as an EMT and as a firefighter who’s been on strike teams fighting fires, Howze emphasized forest management.
“We have to go back to managing our forests, both state and federal,” he said, adding a criticism that the environmental lobby hindered selective logging of forests.
He said he would advocate for cleaning up the wildlands and getting programs that would bring a return to selective logging of forests.
Law Enforcement and Public Safety
Harder: “I don’t support defunding the police," Harder said. "I think our top goal should be restoring trust between law enforcement and the people that they serve. That trust has really broken down.”
Harder pointed toward his vote for a police reform bill that he said called for common-sense reforms like banning chokeholds, creating a national standard for use of force, and ensuring accountability.
He said that he has done work to make sure police are supported with more people who could address issues like homelessness and other challenges.
Howze: Howze said that he “adamantly” opposes defunding the police.
“Sentiment was with everybody during George Floyd’s death,” Howze said. “Nobody condones people under the color of authority not doing the right thing. A criminal act is a criminal act whether you’re a police officer or not. But to go impugn the character of every police officer in the entire nation based on the act of one handful of individuals, that’s not right no matter what your profession is.”
Pointing to his experience as a Turlock City Councilmember, Howze said cuts can cause departments to lose their most experienced members and cause cuts to training.
“The problem is we can’t defund training and have less experienced officers in our departments because it’s going to open the door to have more incidents not fewer,” he said.
Harder: “I think it’s clear that people are paying way too much for rent and mortgages across the valley when the average price of a house is half a million dollars like it is in California," Harder said. "It’s no secret why so many folks are struggling to get by or, even worse, living on the streets.”
He said that he’s put forward an effort to cut costs for new construction and get more housing built in places like the Central Valley.
“Our population has expanded, but the number of new homes has not," he said. "Until we get that fixed, the price of housing is going to continue to expand.”
Howze: “I think we’re going to have to have some serious mandates from the federal government based on population growth that tells the state that you’re going to have to allow cities to build so much housing and mandate that many of those environmental impact fees are lessened,” Howze said.
Howze said the issue with affordable housing lies in all the fees applied by local jurisdictions and by the state. He added that the state has made it impossible to build, fund public safety, and improve roads all at the same time.
He said the key is to reduce fees and burdens.
Harder: Harder's two key areas included lowering the cost of prescription drugs and bringing more doctors to the area.
"Right now, people in the Central Valley pay 11 times the price of insulin that people pay in Australia and other developed countries across the globe," he said. "That’s not acceptable.”
Harder said he voted for a bill that would help lower the cost of insulin and prescriptions by up to 75%, but noted that the Senate hasn’t been able to take it over the finish line.
In regard to bringing in doctors, he pointed to a bill that he worked on that would create a loan repayment program for physicians working in areas of need. He said it would bring 10,000 doctors to the area along with other areas like it.
Howze: Howze has made health care one of the central issues of his campaign, noting a tragedy that impacted his own family.
“My family was struck by tragedy from … corporate health care that really doesn’t care about its patients," Howze said. "It’s all about the almighty dollar. My late wife ended up having a treatable heart condition that our insurance company did not want to spend the money to diagnose. It cost her her life.”
He said that he’s running to make sure every American has access to affordable and available health care with a quality outcome. While he's not a big believer in government-run health care, he believes the answer might lie somewhere in the middle between public and private.
He said that he would address the private health care market and make it more affordable, attack the issues in Medicare, and go back to block granting Medicaid funds to states and letting them operate county hospital systems.
For more information on his health care plan, he directed interested persons to his website.
Harder: “For a long time, the water wars have paralyzed us," Harder said. "We’ve had nonstop fights between farmers and environmentalists and all too often the Central Valley has been on the losing end of those fights.”
Harder said he’s been looking at water projects with popular support and has been working to get those “across the finish line.” He said that he was able to get the first funding for a new water project in his district in 50 years.
“If we have a drought next year after all the economic costs that have happened across the Central Valley this year, it would be truly devastating," he said. "To avert the job losses we see in drought, to make sure that the Central Valley can continue to have the jobs in the ag sector that we need, we have to build water storage projects.”
Howze: “We cannot continue this boom or bust cycle. We have to have more water storage,” Howze said referring to the fluctuating water years for the area.
He criticized the water project that Harder secured funding for, arguing that the community of Patterson didn’t want the project.
He said the answer to the water issues was in money for additional water storage over in the Sierras.
“We need new dams," he said. "We need water stored instead of letting historic flows go to the ocean in wet years. I’m for raising Shasta Dam. I think we could do an incredible job by raising that dam…”