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.”
The progressive group Courage California inducted 12 lawmakers into its “Hall of Shame,” calling out four senators and eight assembly members “who are most out of step with their constituents, and most closely aligned with the corporate and wealthy special interests that exploit Californians.”
Democratic Sens. Bob Archuleta, Susan Rubio, Glazer and Dodd all received an “F” grade from the group’s annual Courage Score Report Card, as did Democratic Assembly members Patrick O’Donnell, Timothy Grayson, Freddie Rodriguez, Blanca Rubio, Tom Daly, Jim Cooper, Jim Frazier and Rudy Salas.
If you haven’t read the scorecard yet, it’s flush with witty digs at the lawmakers, i.e. Dodd’s: “This wine country rep’s coziness with corporations uncorks a bitter vintage of bad votes.”
Courage California spokeswoman Madison Donzis described the report card as “a progressive north star” for liberal groups based out of California. The report card measures how legislators voted on “critical statewide bills and the extent to which elected officials accurately reflected the values of their constituents.”
As for who got an “A,” more than 20 senators and assembly members were listed as “Courage Score All-Stars.”
The full report card will be released Tuesday morning following a 9:30 a.m. rally at Southside Capitol, 1400 10th St., where Courage California Executive Director Eddie Kurtz will speak.
“Legislators must represent Californians, and take action to make real, bold progress on the array of challenges our state faces,” Kurtz said in prepared remarks. “Until then, Courage California will continue to call out state leaders—and we’re happy to name names—for their complicity, and make sure voters hear our message loud and clear.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Progressive booster Courage California (formerly Courage Campaign) is laying down markers in a handful of Democrat-on-Democrat races, endorsing Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria (challenging Rep. Jim Costa), Marisol Rubio (seeking to unseat state Sen. Steve Glazer), Assembly hopeful Tracie Stafford (running against moderate Democratic Assemblyman Jim Cooper) and state Sen. Holly Mitchell (vying for an LA County Supervisor seat).
As of January 2020, Courage California — formerly known as Courage Campaign — has officially changed its name. Since its founding in 2005, Courage Campaign has focused on progressive organizing in California, and the 2020 rebrand as Courage California serves to deepen the organization’s commitment to the state.
Eddie Kurtz, executive director of Courage California, explained:
“Courage California recognizes that California must be a beacon of progressive democracy. We understand that California — the 5th largest economy in the world, and the United States’ largest and most diverse state — is uniquely positioned to serve as a model for the country.
“Courage Campaign’s name was changed to Courage California because it better reflects our mission, vision, and values, and our belief that California must seize upon its unique position to build a progressive, equitable, and truly representative democracy. We must prove that democracy in the U.S. can still solve the thorniest problems facing our state, our nation, and the world, while also serving ALL of our people — regardless of race, gender, or economic status.
“To do so, Californians must have the information and infrastructure they need to hold elected officials accountable when they are not working for the public’s benefit, instead prioritizing corporate lobbyists and campaign contributors.
“Courage California will help our great state reach its potential by calling out institutional corruption and oppression, improving coordination and collaboration between progressive organizations, and demanding that our state and local representatives be both accountable to and reflective of the Californians they seek to serve.
“We are building a courageous California, we are Courage California.”
A billboard with the word “impeach” in all capital letters next to a picture of President Trump has gone up in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco.
The billboard features a link to CouragetoImpeach.com, which features a petition for people to sign indicating they support impeaching Trump.
In a statement, the campaign said, "“Since the very beginning of his presidency, Donald Trump has committed innumerable, impeachable offenses -- from violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause to openly admitting that he fired FBI Director James Comey in order to obstruct the Russia investigation. Now, after using his position as President to blackmail Ukrainian leaders to manufacture political dirt on the Biden family, the case for the impeachment of Donald Trump on legal grounds is a no-brainer,” said Eddie Kurtz, Executive Director of Courage Campaign. “Our national nightmare must end. Trump must be impeached now.”
The backdrop of the new billboard campaign comes as House Democrats launch a new phase of their impeachment inquiry and as former Ambassador Kurt Volker, until recently a top State Department representative to Ukraine, is scheduled to meet with investigators.
“Now, after using his position as President to blackmail Ukrainian leaders to manufacture political dirt on the Biden family, the case for the impeachment of Donald Trump on legal grounds is a no-brainer,” Eddie Kurtz, executive director of Courage Campaign, said in a statement. “Our national nightmare must end. Trump must be impeached now.”
Policy battles between industry lobbyists and activists often leave lawmakers in the middle, and money makes a difference. The liberal nonprofit Courage Campaign said dollar signs influenced an Assembly vote last week that left only one of two tenant protection measures alive.
In its Renter Relief project, the campaign tracked direct and indirect contributions from realtor and landlord groups to lawmakers who declined to vote or voted against Assembly Bill 1482, which caps annual rent increases to 7 percent plus inflation. The group identified vulnerable members based on voting records from a 2018 just cause eviction bill, and it also targeted the lawmakers in Facebook ads.