Dolores Huerta's son loses battle to unseat California congressman

Emilio Huerta and his mother, Dolores Huerta.

Emilio Huerta and his mother, Dolores Huerta.  (HuertaforCongress.com)

Emilio Huerta was hoping his name would help him coast to victory.

The son of well-known labor rights leader Dolores Huerta, he was running for Congress in California’s District 21 against an incumbent.

But David Valadao, who is Portuguese and a Republican, handily beat Huerta, an attorney and Democrat, for the congressional seat. Valadao won re-election in a district that largely poor, heavily Democrat and 75 percent Latino.

“That whole district is a mystery to everyone who has ever looked at it,” said California State University, Bakersfield political science professor Kent Price. “It has a Democratic advantage, a Latino advantage. Demographically and politically, you look at it and ask ‘How is it Republican?’” 

Valadao has held the seat since 2012, when he beat a Latino businessman.

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Some believed Valadao’s candidacy was fragile this year because Trump was so unpopular in California, a heavily Democrat state with a huge Hispanic population. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton endorsed Huerta and his mother campaigned for him – though not heavily.

Valadao distanced himself from Trump and instead focused on local issues.

The race was closely watched because of the state’s drought situation. Valadao was pushing for legislation that would funnel more water into the San Joaquin Valley, an area that’s heavily agricultural, by reducing the amount of water used to support endangered fish populations. That drew the scorn of environmentalists but endeared him to many in the rural communities, which use community showers and drink water brought in by trucks.

Huerta ran a grassroots campaign that focused on knocking on doors and talking to constituents. He said he adopted the same method his mother did when she pushed for labor laws with Cesar Chavez in the 1960s.

“My mom and Cesar had house meetings,” Huerta told Fox News Latino in September. “We’ve adopted that method. We’re holding house meetings, we talk to the people around the kitchen table, in their backyards, in local parks, in community centers – wherever we can do it.”

Those who back Huerta said they did so because they thought he could revive the local economy.

"We endorsed Huerta because of his views on labor and higher education, and his position to the Valley bringing water back,” Sandip Roy, President, UAW Local 4123, the union representing academic student employees across the 23 California State University campuses, told Fox News Latino. “He was the kind of candidate that we’d thought would help bring back jobs to the Valley and help to lessen the burden of education debt.”

Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at rebekah.sager@foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.