Costa vs. Soria in battle of early endorsements for 16th Congressional District

Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, who became the first Latina to serve as council president, is challenging fellow Democrat and incumbent Jim Costa in the 16th Congressional District.
Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, who became the first Latina to serve as council president, is challenging fellow Democrat and incumbent Jim Costa in the 16th Congressional District.

In an opening salvo in the Democratic battle for the 16th Congressional District, Jim Costa released the names of six elected Latino office holders – plus a former mayor – who are endorsing the 67-year-old incumbent in a bid for an eighth term representing a Latino-majority district.

“I am truly honored to receive such strong support form our local leaders who share a belief in the power of public service to get things done for our families and communities,” said Costa in a press release sent Wednesday afternoon.

Costa, who is being challenged by Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria and two others, touted the endorsements of mayors David Cárdenas (Fowler), Andy Medillín (Madera), Robert Silva (Mendota), Víctor López (Orange Cove), and, Alma Beltrán (Parlier). Only Madera is in the 16th District.

“We need Jim Costa in Congress to ensure immigrants and working men and women have a voice,” said Medellín in the press statement. Costa “is an experience, tireless champion for our Valley and is the only candidate in this race who knows what it takes to defend our communities.”

Medellín’s mother, former Madera Mayor Margie Medellín, is also listed as a Costa supporter; along with Parlier Mayor Pro Tem Trinidad Pimentel.

Costa, who is Portuguese, is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Costa also has endorsements from Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

Congressman Jim Costa, here at an April 2019 press conference on immigration, is seeking his eighth, two-year term in a race that includes fellow Democrat Esmeralda Soria. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

The 37-year-old Soria, who was not born when Costa was first elected to public office (state Assembly) in 1978, said she will release a list of endorsements soon.

“I am just excited about the growing support I have received in the last few weeks,” said Soria, who was endorsed by Silva, the Mendota mayor, when she ran successfully for the Fresno City Council. “Out list is growing daily.”

Soria said her endorsements include trustees, councilmembers and mayors.

Among them are fellow Fresno Councilmembers Miguel Arias and Luis Chávez.

Other Soria backers include Merced County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza, Madera City Councilmember Cece Gallegos, Kingsburg Mayor Michelle Roman, and, Kingsburg City Councilmember Jewel Hurtado.

Recently, Soria picked up the endorsement of the Fresno County Young Democrats on Tuesday.

There are two other Congressional candidates – Democrat Kim Williams, a college professor and former diplomat; and, Republican Kevin Cookingham, a retired Clovis educator and current real estate professional.

The March 3 primary in 2020 will send the top two votegetters, regardless of party affiliation, to the November general election.

The 16th Congressional District is 58 percent Latino, with a Democratic registration edge of 43.41 percent to 24.76 percent over Republicans. Slightly more than 27 percent of the voters have no party preference.

The district includes a chunk of the city of Fresno and includes a portion of western Fresno County, and all of Madera and Merced counties.

No Latino or Latina in California has been elected to Congress north of Los Ángeles/Santa Bárbara. The San Joaquín Valley has never sent a woman to Congress.

Soria, who was born and raised in Tulare County, was the first Latina to serve as Fresno Council President. She earned her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and her law degree from UC Davis School of Law.

“This is not personal,” Soria said about her challenge against Costa. “This campaign is about my family, families like mine that continue to struggle.”