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Conway wins race to fill Devin Nunes’ vacant congressional seat

Political veteran Republican Connie Conway and relative newcomer to professional politics, Democrat Lourin Hubbard, vied for California's vacant 22nd Congressional District seat.

(CN) — Republican Connie Conway has won the race to replace Devin Nunes in representing California's 22nd Congressional District.

Conway, a former California Assembly leader, faced off against California Department of Water Resources operations manager Lourin Hubbard, a Democrat, in Tuesday’s special runoff election to determine who would finish out Nunes’ congressional term.

With about 80% of precincts reporting, Conway led Hubbard by 11,416 votes, 59.5% to 40.5%.

Conway will only spend a few months in Congress because District 22 is disappearing on Jan. 3, 2023, after being redrawn based on the 2020 census and absorbed into neighboring districts. 

Governor Gavin Newsom scheduled a special primary election for April 5 to fill Nunes’ vacant seat, but no candidate in that race received a majority of votes, setting the stage for the June 7 runoff. According to the Fresno County Registrar of Voters, the special primary election cost local taxpayers around $1.5 million.

In the April primary, Conway and Hubbard led the field of six candidates, with Conway ultimately edging out Hubbard 34.8% to 19.7% in that race, or about 10,000 votes.

District 22 has a population of 787,793 and is 49.3% Hispanic. The median household income is just over $62,000 per year and the area has traditionally voted for Republican candidates — it’s been more than 20 years since a Democrat has won a local congressional seat. Devin Nunes won the most recent election in 2020 with 54.2% of the vote, among the closest contests in his nearly two-decade congressional career, portending a possible shift in local political tides.

With growing uncertainty over his redrawn district, which was predicted to more heavily favor Democrats than it had previously, Nunes decided to retire from the House at the end of 2021 and take the top job at former President Donald Trump’s nascent media company. Nunes’ other options were to risk losing his next election or to run against a fellow Republican in a different district, apparently neither of which the former congressman found desirable.

Hubbard, a political newcomer originally from Bakersfield, Calif., ran on a platform promoting universal health care through Medicare for all Americans. He also favored providing affordable childcare services for families, improving the quality of public schools in District 22 and transitioning the economy to renewable energy sources to protect the environment.

A former Republican himself who first voted Democrat in 2012 when Barack Obama ran for a second term as president, Hubbard tried to underscore the importance of reaching out to all eligible voters. Hubbard has previously said that he doesn’t expect to garner any free points from Black or Latino voters or even all registered Democrats for that matter — and that it’s his job to motivate each individual to vote for him.

Conway, a native of Bakersfield, served as a member of the California Assembly from 2008 to 2014. Before that, she sat on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors from 2000 to 2008, which she chaired in 2005 and 2008. Conway, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said she considers the job to be that of a caretaker until the seat vanishes in January.

According to Conway's campaign website, tackling inflation, ensuring water rights for Central Valley farmers, getting kids back in schools after the pandemic and fighting the "defund the police" movement are her primary areas of focus in the district.

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