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Special election scheduled to fill Devin Nunes’ vacant congressional seat

Whomever replaces Nunes will only be in office for seven months before the seat disappears due to redistricting.

(CN) — On April 5, voters in California’s 22nd Congressional District, located in California's Central Valley, will head to the polls for a special primary election to determine who replaces longtime congressman Devin Nunes.

If no candidate wins a majority of the votes the contest will head to a runoff on June 7, the day of the statewide primary election.

But the winner of the election will remain in office for just seven months to finish Nunes’ term, after which the seat disappears due to redistricting. The winner will only be present for 10 days of House sessions in June and another 12 in July, according to the congressional calendar, before Congress takes its recess.

As a result, several higher-profile candidates have already withdrawn and chosen to try their luck in other nearby districts. Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, once predicted to be among the favorites, is instead running for a seat in the newly redrawn District 5. Meanwhile, Phil Arballo, Nunes’ opponent in the 2020 election, chose to try for a seat in District 13.

Among the candidates seeking to replace Nunes, the only one with prior legislative experience is Republican Connie Conway, a former member of the California Assembly who left office in 2014 without seeking reelection. The other candidates in the race include Democrats Eric Garcia and Hubbard, and Republicans Elizabeth Heng, Michael Maher and Matt Stoll, none of whom have held elected office in the past.

Nunes resigned his congressional seat at the conclusion of 2021 to become CEO at former President Donald Trump’s new media company, Trump Media & Technology Group. Trump started the company with the goal of competing with major social media platforms like Twitter after a number of platforms banned him following his comments about the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I was presented with a new opportunity to fight for the most important issues I believe in. I’m writing to let you know I’ve decided to pursue this opportunity, and therefore I will be leaving the House of Representatives at the end of 2021,” Nunes said in a resignation letter sent to his constituents this past December.

During his time in office, Nunes was a staunch supporter and defender of Trump, voting in line with the former president’s stated position 96.2% of the time. Nunes often used his position to downplay various controversies surrounding the former president such as the investigation into his possible role in Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election.

The former congressman first won the Congressional District 21 seat in 2003, a post he held until the district map was redrawn in 2011. Nunes went on to represent the newly redrawn District 22 until his resignation on Dec. 31, 2021, which prompted the upcoming special election.

Nunes’ two former districts are overwhelmingly Republican — a Democrat hasn’t won District 22 since Louis Capps defeated Mike Stoker all the way back in 2000 — and Nunes has coasted to victory on a wave of support throughout much of his time in office. During his 18-year tenure in Congress, Nunes only faced two relatively close challenges: in 2020, he beat Democratic challenger Phil Arballo by 8.4%, and in 2018 he bested Democrat Andrew Janz by just 5.4% in the narrowest victory of his political career.

There are 415,442 registered voters in District 22, a largely rural and agricultural region of California spread out across Fresno and Tulare counties and encompassing much of the cities of Fresno, Clovis and Visalia, out of the total population of 787,793. The district’s boundaries had to be redrawn in 2021 after California lost a seat in Congress for the first time ever because of slowing population growth. The final district map was unanimously approved this past December by the state’s 14-member independent redistricting commission, and is predicted to more heavily favor Democrats than it had during Nunes’ time in office.

The commission ultimately chose to splinter District 22, parts of which will now be absorbed into neighboring districts. The District 22 map was last redrawn in 2011 to account for 2010 census population data and formerly covered most of Kern County and portions of San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles counties. Most of those areas now fall under Districts 23 and 24, while most of what is now District 22 was formerly District 21 until the 2011 redistricting.

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