In California’s 21st congressional district, Republican incumbent David Valadao, a first-term House member, is fighting for re-election against Democrat Amanda Renteria.
The district tends to alternate between parties. In 2012, it split, going to President Obama and Valadao.
“Although Democrats maintain a voter registration advantage, those in Washington are beginning to realize what the district already knows: Central Valley voters will support the candidate that shares their values, regardless of party,” said a Valadao for Congress spokesperson.
To be re-elected, Valadao would have to once again overcome demographics that don’t seem to favor him: Democrats account for nearly 75 percent of registered voters in the Hispanic-dominated district. So far, so good. A September SurveyUSA poll put his lead over Renteria at nearly 20 points.
Fox News Latino asked the challenger why she thinks voters chose a Republican Congressman in the last election.
“There wasn’t really a great job of building the grassroots team,” Renteria said referring to the Democratic campaign. “If you don’t have that truly grassroots door-knocking really connecting with the community, it’s tough.”
Voters in this very agricultural area of California’s Central Valley seem to be able to relate to the incumbent. Valadao comes from a farming family taught himself Spanish by speaking to workers in the fields.
Valadao is an advocate of increasing the number of “hands-on” jobs. Unlike Renteria, he doesn’t support an increase in the minimum wage—instead he’s in favor of improving the business conditions.
“Minimum wage is an issue that should be addressed at the state level,” a Valadao for Congress spokesperson said.
Renteria also has her roots in the agriculture industry. Her parents, originally from Mexico, grew up picking fruit in Woodlake, California.
Growing up,she was an athlete and excelled in school, attending Stanford and Harvard. She went on to become high school teacher. She’s naturally a strong advocate of education, stressing the importance of the Title 1 funding for literacy.
“I believe that education is the key to our future as a country,” Renteria told FNL. “I know that I would never have had the opportunities I’ve had if I hadn’t done well in school.”
Despite their differences, the candidates have a history of respecting each other in commercials and debates.
Renteria said reaching the Hispanic base is obviously very important to her campaign.
“We’re doing everything we can to reach out to all the different communities here but the Latino community, the Hispanic vote, is clearly important. I think when you look at the issues – whether it’s education or immigration or jobs – it really does effect the Latino and Hispanic community here.”
The Central Valley is dubbed the “bread basket” of the state and country. This year, California is in the middle of one of the most devastating droughts in history. The future of agriculture and water supply is vital to the area and is perhaps the most important issue facing the region.
“Water is a huge issue,” Renteria said.” The agriculture community here in the Valley really does provide... What I like to say is, 'We feed the country, we feed the world.'”
Renteria is asking her supporters to vote in favor of a $2.7 billion water bond that will provide storage for water and fund short- and long-term projects including transferring water from Northern California.
“Not only do water and agriculture issues affect those who work and depend on those specific industries; it affects every family and individual in California's San Joaquin Valley,” said a spokesperson for Valadao for Congress.
Valadao introduced legislation which has passed through the House of Representatives, the Water Delivery Act, would “preserve hundreds of billions of gallons of water being flushed into the ocean.”
Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC