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David Valadao

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David Valadao
David Valadao 117th U.S Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 21st district
Assumed office
January 12, 2021
Preceded byTJ Cox
In office
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byDevin Nunes
Succeeded byTJ Cox
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 30th district
In office
December 6, 2010 – November 30, 2012
Preceded byDanny Gilmore
Succeeded byLuis Alejo
Personal details
David Goncalves Valadao

(1977-04-14) April 14, 1977 (age 44)
Hanford, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Terra Valadao
(m. 1999)
ResidenceHanford, California, U.S.
EducationCollege of the Sequoias
WebsiteHouse website

David Goncalves Valadao (/væləˈd/; born April 14, 1977) is an American politician and dairy farmer who is the U.S. Representative for California's 21st congressional district. In 2020, Valadao defeated TJ Cox to reclaim the seat he held from 2013 to 2019.[1] Before being elected to Congress, he served one term in the California State Assembly, representing the 30th district. He is a member of the Republican Party. In the 2020 elections, Valadao, Michelle Steel, and Young Kim became the first Republican congressional candidates since 1994 to unseat incumbent House Democrats in California.

Valadao was unable to attend his scheduled swearing-in on January 3, 2021, due to a COVID-19 diagnosis.[2] He quarantined at his home in Hanford, California.[3] He took his seat on January 12, 2021.

Valadao was one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump during Trump's second impeachment.[4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Valadao was born and raised in Hanford, California. His parents are Portuguese immigrants (original spelling Valadão); his father grew up on the Azores Islands. In a 2013 interview, Valadao said his parents were initially registered Democrats but later switched to the Republican Party.[6]

Valadao graduated from Hanford High School in 1995.[7] From 1996 to 1998[8] he attended the College of the Sequoias in Visalia as a part-time student but did not graduate.[9]

Agriculture career and bankruptcy[edit]

Valadao's father established a dairy farm in Kings County, California, in 1969. Along with his brother, Valadao became a partner in Valadao Dairy in 1992.[9] He has been a member of the California Milk Advisory Board, Western States Dairy Trade Association, and Regional Leadership Council Chairman for Land O' Lakes.[10]

In March 2018, Valadao, a general partner of Triple V Dairy, was named in two lawsuits against the dairy for defaulting on almost $9 million in loans and for failing to pay a supplier.[11] In June 2018 a bank seized the dairy and sold it off to pay its debts. Valadao said, "Like so many family dairy farms across the country, burdensome government regulations made it impossible for the operation to remain open."[12] After a lawsuit in 2019, Valadao agreed to pay $325,000 to former employees who sued for being denied breaks, minimum wage, and overtime pay.[13][14] The settlement was not paid due to Valadao and Triple V Dairy filing for bankruptcy.[14]

California State Assembly[edit]

Valadao with Devin Nunes in June 2004

Valadao announced his candidacy for California's 30th State Assembly district after the 2010 retirement of Republican Assemblyman Danny Gilmore. He defeated Stephanie Campbell in the Republican primary, 78%–22%.[15] In the general election, he defeated Shafter Mayor Fran Florez, 61%–39%.[16][17]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



In August 2011, Valadao announced that he would seek the Republican nomination for California's 21st congressional district.[18] The district had previously been the 20th District, represented by four-term Democrat Jim Costa, but redistricting had shifted most of the district's share of Fresno to the new 16th District, and Costa sought reelection there.

In the June 5 open primary, he ranked first with 57% of the vote, ahead of Democrat John Hernandez – the head of the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – and Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong.[19] In the November 6 general election he defeated Hernandez, 58%–42%.[20] A Wall Street Journal op-ed cited his victory in a district that had long been held by Democrats as a potential template for the GOP, while other analysts cited his opponent's "weakness as a candidate and a campaigner" as playing a major role.[21]

Valadao during the 113th Congress

Valadao ran for reelection in November 2014. His challengers were Democrat Amanda Renteria, a former political aide to Dianne Feinstein and Debbie Stabenow,[22] and John Hernandez, the Democratic nominee Valadao defeated in 2012.[23] In the June 3 primary Valadao finished first once again with 63% of the vote, and received majorities of 60% or higher in every county except for Kern. In the November 4 general election he was reelected with 58% of the vote.[24]


Valadao ran for reelection to a third term in 2016. His first challenger was Democrat Daniel Parra, the Mayor pro tem of Fowler, California.[25] Another Democratic challenger was Connie Perez, an accountant in Pasadena, California, who grew up in Tulare, but due to issues regarding her residency outside of the district, as well as an alleged recent change in party affiliation, Perez dropped out less than a month after announcing her candidacy.[26][27] In January 2016 Emilio Huerta, son of United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, announced his candidacy in the race as a Democrat.[28] In the June 7 primary Valadao finished first with 54% of the vote and Huerta finished second with 24.2%.[29][30] In the general election Valadao was reelected with 56.7% of the vote to Huerta's 43.3%.[31]


In 2018, Valadao was initially set to face Huerta again in a rematch, with Huerta announcing his bid in May 2017.[32] But in March 2018 Huerta suspended his campaign for lack of funds.[33][34] After Huerta's withdrawal, engineer TJ Cox of Fresno announced that he would challenge Valadao.[35] Cox had previously announced a challenge to Republican Congressman Jeff Denham in the 10th district before switching to Valadao's seat.[36]

Valadao declared victory on November 6 after the Associated Press initially called the race in his favor, but the counting of mail-in ballots gave Cox a very narrow lead. Cox officially won the race on November 28,[37] and Valadao conceded on December 6.[38] The final count showed that Cox won by 862 votes. It was one of the last U.S. House races to be decided in the 2018 cycle.[39]


Valadao ran for and won his former seat in 2020,[40] defeating Cox in a rematch by 1,754 votes, 51% to 49%.[41] This came even as Joe Biden carried the district by ten points.[42]

In March 2021, he voted against the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.[43]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Political positions[edit]

In the 114th United States Congress, Valadao was ranked as the 42nd-most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy.[49]

Donald Trump[edit]

After Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in May 2016, Valadao said he would support his candidacy. He rescinded his support in June 2016, declining to endorse Trump and saying he could not support a candidate who "denigrates people based on their ethnicity, religion, or disabilities."[50]

In February 2017, Valadao voted against a resolution that would have directed the House to request ten years of Trump's tax returns, which would then have been reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee in a closed session.[51]

FiveThirtyEight found that in the 115th and 117th United States Congresses, Valadao had voted in line with Trump's stated position 96.8% of the time.[52]

On January 13, 2021, Valadao was one of ten Republicans who voted for the second impeachment of Donald Trump for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.[4][5] Valadao later said that despite misgivings about the process that the Democrats used to send the impeachment article to the floor, he felt he had to "go with my gut and vote my conscience" and vote to impeach. He called Trump a "driving force" behind the riots and concluded that his rhetoric at the rally preceding the riots was "un-American, abhorrent, and absolutely an impeachable offense."[53][54]

On May 19, 2021, Valadao was one of 35 Republicans who joined all Democrats in voting to approve legislation to establish the January 6 commission meant to investigate the storming of the U.S. Capitol.[55]


In response to President Barack Obama's repeated assertion that the 2011 California drought was caused by global warming, Valadao said that "climate change has nothing to do with the drought" and that Obama administration regulations had worsened the drought.[56]

Food stamps[edit]

In 2013, Valadao was one of 15 House Republicans to vote against a Republican-backed bill to make deep cuts in food stamp spending.[57]


Valadao favored repealing the Affordable Care Act. On May 4, 2017, he voted to repeal it and to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA).[58][59][60] He was one of three co-sponsors of a last minute amendment that added $8 billion to fund high risk pools for patients with pre-existing conditions.[61] The revised version of AHCA allowed states to get waivers to allow insurers to charge individuals with preexisting conditions more if the individual has had a gap in insurance coverage.[62]

In June 2017, Valadao and Jeff Denham (CA-10) introduced the Assessing Critical Care Efforts to Strengthen Services (ACCESS) Act. It would correct California's Medicaid reimbursement method in order to encourage physicians to operate in the Central Valley and to ensure patient access to doctors and specialists.[63]

In July 2017, Valadao and five other members of Congress introduced the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2017, which would reauthorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program. It would expand existing programs at health centers and establish new teaching health centers.[64]

LGBT rights[edit]

In 2016, Valadao voted for a measure that banned discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.[65] In 2015, Valadao did not join many other prominent California Republicans in signing a U.S. Supreme Court brief in favor of same-sex marriage.[66]


Valadao supports comprehensive immigration reform.[67][68]

In August 2014, he broke ranks with the Republican Party and voted against a bill that would have dismantled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.[69]

On February 23, 2017, Valadao called for a bipartisan solution to the U.S. immigration system. Later in 2017 he and nine other lawmakers wrote to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan asking for legislation to address DACA's future.[70]

In June 2018, Valadao released a statement about the Department of Justice's "zero tolerance" policy, which involved separating children and parents at the Mexican border. "The substantial increase of minors at our southern border is both a humanitarian and national security crisis," he wrote. "While we must work towards a solution that reduces the occurrence of illegal border crossings, it is unacceptable to separate young children from their parents. This is exactly why passage of a compromise solution, such as that being discussed in Congress right now, is absolutely necessary."[71]


In December 2017, Valadao voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.[72]


Valadao has criticized the Trump administration's imposition of tariffs against Chinese steel and aluminum imports, which prompted China to impose retaliatory tariffs on a range of U.S. agriculture products. In May 2018 he sent a letter to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressing concern over the tariffs' impact on the Central Valley's economy, writing, "Not only do the proposed tariffs fail to adequately remedy China's unfair practices, such tariffs seriously jeopardize our farmers' access to export markets, which accounts for roughly twenty percent of their production."[73]


In January 2017, Valadao introduced H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, "to grant presumptive Agent Orange exposure status to U.S. service members who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This would enable eligible veterans to receive expedited consideration for Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits if they suffer from any of the diseases the U.S. Government has linked to Agent Orange." In August 2017 Valadao and Representative Joe Courtney sent a letter urging the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans have access to medical care from the VA.[74]

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict[edit]

In 2017, Valadao was blacklisted by Azerbaijan for taking part in a visit to Armenia and a disputed, breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.[75]

Electoral history[edit]

2012 California's 21st congressional district election
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David Valadao 27,251 57.0
Democratic John Hernandez 10,575 22.1
Democratic Blong Xiong 9,990 20.9
Total votes 47,816 100.0
General election
Republican David Valadao 67,164 57.8
Democratic John Hernandez 49,119 42.2
Total votes 116,283 100.0
Republican win (new seat)
2014 California's 21st congressional district election
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David Valadao (incumbent) 28,773 63.0
Democratic Amanda Renteria 11,682 25.6
Democratic John Hernandez 5,232 11.5
Total votes 45,687 100.0
General election
Republican David Valadao (incumbent) 45,907 57.8
Democratic Amanda Renteria 33,470 42.2
Total votes 79,377 100.0
Republican hold
2016 California's 21st congressional district election
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David Valadao (incumbent) 37,367 54.0
Democratic Emilio Huerta 16,743 24.2
Democratic Daniel Parra 15,056 21.8
Total votes 69,166 100.0
General election
Republican David Valadao (incumbent) 75,126 56.7
Democratic Emilio Huerta 57,282 43.3
Total votes 132,408 100.0
Republican hold
2018 California's 21st congressional district election[76][77]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David Valadao (incumbent) 34,290 62.8
Democratic TJ Cox 20,293 37.2
Total votes 54,583 100.0
General election
Democratic TJ Cox 57,239 50.4
Republican David Valadao (incumbent) 56,377 49.6
Total votes 113,616 100.0
Democratic gain from Republican
California's 21st congressional district, 2020[78]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David Valadao 39,488 49.7
Democratic TJ Cox (incumbent) 30,697 38.7
Democratic Ricardo De La Fuente 7,309 9.2
Republican Rocky De La Fuente 1,912 2.4
Total votes 79,406 100.0
General election
Republican David Valadao 85,373 50.4
Democratic TJ Cox (incumbent) 83,619 49.6
Total votes 169,292 100.0
Republican gain from Democratic

Honors and awards[edit]

In August 2014, the United States Chamber of Commerce awarded Valadao its Spirit of Enterprise Award.[67] He won the same award again in 2016.[79]

Personal life[edit]

Valadao lives in Hanford with his wife Terra and their three children.[80] During his first tenure in the House, Valadao consistently ranked as the poorest member of Congress by net worth, with over $17.5 million in debt in 2018, mainly loans to his family's dairy farm.[81][82]


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External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 30th district

Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 21st congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 21st congressional district

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
United States representatives by seniority
Succeeded by