In California’s 16th District, Rep. Jim Costa, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House and a leader of the Blue Dog Coalition, is facing the first serious primary challenge in his eight-term career in Congress. Fresno City Council Member Esmeralda Soria, a daughter of Mexican immigrant farmworkers, is challenging Costa from the left. Her platform rejects corporate PAC money and includes Medicare for All. Although the 37-year-old hopeful isn’t particularly radical, her politics are more aligned with the solidly blue district than Costa’s, who has voted along with Trump’s agenda nearly half the time.
His record includes votes — alongside his mostly Republican colleagues — to erode environmental regulations, defend U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and stall action on Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. And before entering Congress, as a state senator he led the effort to ban most kinds of rent control in California.
Despite not having raised as much money as the eight-term incumbent, Soria successfully blocked Costa from winning the California Democratic Party’s early endorsement at a party convention last November, receiving 46 percent of the vote to his 49 percent. California’s top-two primary system means that the candidates who receive the most votes will make it to the general election in November, regardless of their party affiliation. In 2014, Costa, who has only ever had to fend off Republicans, almost lost his safe seat to an obscure, underfunded GOP challenger.
Democrat Kim Williams, a former history professor and U.S. diplomat, is also running in the primary but has struggled to gain traction. Williams is to the left of Soria, identifying closer to Sanders’s politics — but has only been able to raise about $49,825 in campaign funds. The influential progressive group Courage California has lined up behind Soria.