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2018 electionCongressional races

Central Valley's Jeff Denham gets new 2018 challenger

Josh Harder None
Josh Harder

A 30-year-old investor will challenge the Central Valley's Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) in 2018.

Turlock native and Democrat Josh Harder announced a bid for the 10th Congressional District on Wednesday.

Harder is a vice president in Bessemer Venture Partners' San Francisco office, where he focuses on investment in software, mobile and telecommunications. He moved back to the district, where he grew up, a month ago and will step away from his role with the company during the campaign, he said.

Harder has master’s degrees from Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a bachelor in economics and politics from Stanford University.

He wants to focus on job creation and economic opportunity in the Central Valley, pointing to people like his brother, who he said is still looking for a full-time job after five years of searching.

“There’s just not a lot of opportunities for entry-level positions,” Harder said. “What we need [is] a better, positive vision for what the economic development of the valley can bring.”

An hour away from an economically successful major city like San Francisco shouldn’t have a majority of local high school students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, he said. Harder said he wants to build off the local agriculture industry to bring in new jobs, and says Denham hasn’t done enough in Congress to help.

Democrats have repeatedly targeted the seat with no luck. Harder said the enthusiasm of local activists at town halls makes him think this time could be different.

“It’s all about channeling that energy and coming forward with a comprehensive message,” he said.

The nonpartisan analysis website Cook Political Report lists the district as “lean Republican.” Denham won reelection by less than 5 percentage points in 2016 after Democrats sought to tie him to now-President Trump.

Trump lost the district in November, but Harder said that won’t be his only message.

“I don’t want to make it that simplistic, rooting him to the anchor that is Donald Trump,” he said.

Three others have announced bids against Denham.

It’s not clear whether Denham’s previous Democratic challenger, beekeeper Michael Eggman, plans to run again, but Harder has hired Eggman’s 2016 campaign manager, Josh Lord.

FOR THE RECORD

May 3, 2:25 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Harder is Denham's first declared opponent.

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