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Democrat Adam Gray says he'll run again for Congress, seek rematch with John Duarte

Democrat Adam Gray (on left) says he is running against incumbent John Duarte for California’s 13th Congressional District.
Screenshot from Adam Gray for Congress website; John Duarte press photo
Democrat Adam Gray (on left) says he is running against incumbent John Duarte for California’s 13th Congressional District.

MERCED, Calif. — Less than a year after losing one of the country’s closest congressional races, Merced Democrat Adam Gray said Wednesday he will seek a rematch in 2024 with Republican John Duarte for the 13th Congressional District.

The 45-year-old former state Assembly member told CVJC he’s running on his record of playing an active role in key upcoming projects in Merced and the Valley, such as establishing a medical school at UC Merced and extending the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) commuter train from Stockton to Merced County.

Gray touted his 10 years in the state Assembly as a moderate who works across the partisan divide, citing his role in founding the bipartisan California Problem Solvers Caucus.

Gray said he also has the Valley’s interests at heart. For example, he asked for an audit of the state Department of Water Resources that ultimately determined the department made only limited progress in accounting for the effects of climate change in its forecasts of the water supply.

“I focused on always putting the San Joaquin Valley’s interests or the Central Valley’s interests first, not political party agendas,” Gray told CVJC. “I have always found the two political party agendas rarely include what’s most important to the folks who live here.”

Gray also was critical of Duarte, alleging he has not done enough to collaborate across the partisan divide to solve Valley problems. “He’s not standing up for the Valley, he’s busy being a lackey for Republican party leadership,” Gray said.

Duarte, in an emailed statement to CVJC, disagreed with Gray’s characterization of his time in Congress.

“I am unafraid to stand up to both parties when they hurt our Valley families — whether it’s President Biden’s policies that have sent food and gas prices sky high; or my own party’s immigration bill that would have cost Valley jobs,” said Duarte, a Modesto farmer and businessman.

“I will always work with both Republicans and Democrats to fight for police funding to keep our kids safe, water for our families and farms, and good roads and bridges. The Valley is my home, and I will never stop fighting for it.”

Last November’s race for the 13th District, which runs roughly from Lathrop to Coalinga in California’s San Joaquin Valley, was one of the tightest congressional races in the nation with a count that lasted for weeks.

In the end, Duarte edged out Gray by less than half a percentage point, or fewer than 600 votes. The decision helped Republicans squeak out a slim majority over Democrats in the House of Representatives. Consequently, Democrats must win in swing areas like the 13th District if they want to reclaim the House.

The 13th Congressional District was redrawn two years ago, moving from the East Bay to the San Joaquin Valley. It includes all of Merced County; most of the population of Madera County; and parts of Stanislaus, Fresno, and San Joaquin counties.

When asked what will be different in 2024 compared to his 2022 defeat to Duarte, Gray said he believes the presidential election could work in his favor by boosting voter participation.

For example, last November less than 45% of registered voters in Merced County cast ballots, down substantially from the 78.7% who voted in the 2020 presidential race.

“I am confident that, going into a presidential election, there’s going to be a lot of attention,” Gray said. “A lot of folks (will be) coming out to the polls, and I am confident that my message of bipartisanship, collaboration and fighting for the Valley is going to be the winning message at the end of the day.”

Victor A. Patton is the community engagement editor for the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, a nonprofit newsroom based in Merced.

This story was published in partnership with the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, a nonprofit and nonpartisan community newsroom. To get regular coverage from the CVJC, sign up for CVJC’s free Substack list here and follow CVJC on Facebook.