Costa, 67, appeared vulnerable after he was unable to win the state Democratic Party’s endorsement for the seat. But he’s stockpiled nearly $1 million for the contest, and his prominent supporters include Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Kamala Harris, the former Democratic presidential contender.
He argues that he’s delivered in Congress, including routinely securing funds for farm programs in a district where agriculture is the backbone of the economy. His campaign declined a request to interview Costa but provided a written statement in which the congressman said he’s “focused on the issues that matter.”
His main Democratic challenger, Esmeralda Soria, 37, a lawyer and Fresno City Council member, sees it differently. She calls Costa, first elected in 2004, a captive of big-money politics and argues that “nothing has changed” in the farm-belt district that struggles with drinking water problems, poverty and homelessness.
Echoing Sanders and Warren, she says health care is a human right. And she’s rejecting corporate PAC funds that she blames for corrupting Congress. “Washington is broken, corrupted by the greed of those at the top. It’s time for new leadership,” she says on her campaign website.
In an interview, Soria, the daughter of Mexican immigrant farm workers who is backed by labor icon Dolores Huerta and the liberal group Courage California, called Costa a friend but also ineffective and too close to corporate interests, particularly in farming.
“Just because you have a D after your name,” she said, referring to Costa’s Democratic affiliation, “that’s not enough.”