Andrew Janz speaks to a crowd near Devin Nunes' office in Clovis.  Vanessa Rancano/KQED
Andrew Janz speaks to a crowd near Devin Nunes' office in Clovis.  (Vanessa Rancano/KQED)

'I’m Andrew Janz and I’m Here to Repeal and Replace Devin Nunes'

'I’m Andrew Janz and I’m Here to Repeal and Replace Devin Nunes'

Updated Friday, 11:30 a.m.

Protesters gathered in front of Congressman Devin Nunes' office in Clovis on Thursday, upset about his vote to support the GOP health care plan and critical of his handling of the investigation into Russian election interference.

And, to hear from the first challenger to Nunes in the 2018 midterm election, a 33-year-old Fresno County deputy district attorney making his first run for office.

"I’m Andrew Janz and I’m here to repeal and replace Devin Nunes," Janz told the crowd of about 80 supporters in the Central Valley town outside of Fresno.

“We’re here today because the congressman cast a vote last week for a bill that is a disaster for the American people ... and we are here today because Devin Nunes won’t meet with us," Janz said.

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Janz, 33, of Visalia, told reporters he'd never thought about running for office until recently, when national political developments spurred him to get involved. He said he was especially motivated by the actions of his own representative, Nunes, on health care, and the complaint among some locals that the congressman ignored them.

Those concerns and critiques were echoed by the demonstrators.

"I can't sit back and watch anymore," said Steve Spriggs, who noted that he hasn't been out protesting since 1973.

"I'm concerned about his ethical judgment," said retired doctor James Mendez, concerning both Russia and the health care bill.

Ken Farmer called his sign "apolitical" and "nonpartisan." (Vanessa Rancaño/KQED)

A group, Friends of Andrew Janz, organized the demonstration. In a statement early Friday, Nunes' spokesman Jack Langer said that the protests against the congressman were "being organized by Indivisible, a group of left-wing activists who, unsurprisingly, oppose Republican Members of Congress.

"Our staff has met with Indivisible activists numerous times, exchanged emails and phone calls with them, and provided them with information on legislative bills. Nevertheless, they continually proclaim their talking point that they are being ignored," he said in a statement.

At Thursday's rally, health care was a big focus: Jennifer McLelland told the crowd how the Affordable Care Act helped her family. She said her son James, 6, was in the hospital for the first nine months of his life because he was born with a rare syndrome that affects his breathing.

"If lifetime limits had been in effect he would have blown through the maximum dollar value on his life before he ever left the neonatal intensive care unit," she said.

The ACA prohibits insurance companies from placing lifetime limits on the amount of care they will pay for.

Jennifer McLelland with her 6-year-old son James, who has a rare genetic condition that affects the formation of his airway. (Vanessa Rancano/KQED )

"Obamacare protected us from the costs of having a very disabled baby," she said. "We've spoken to Congressman Nunes about how our son is a lifetime limit baby and how we're terrified that lifetime limits are coming back (under the AHCA)." 

Retired doctor James Mendez in front of Nunes' office. (Vanessa Rancaño/KQED)

For more than a decade, Nunes, a Tulare dairyman, was a little-known Central Valley congressman. Then he took a field trip to the White House grounds that landed him in the center of a national controversy.

After President Donald Trump tweeted wiretapping allegations against the Obama administration, Nunes —who in his role as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee led an investigation into the election 2016-Russia-team-Trump maelstrom — met with intelligence officials. He did so reportedly with the help of two White House staffers, without alerting his committee colleagues.

Nunes, who had served on the executive committee of Trump’s presidential transition team, recused himself in April from the Russian investigation. Soon after, the House Committee on Ethics said it was investigating whether Nunes had made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

So far, Janz is the only Nunes challenger to file with the Federal Election Commission. Janz's campaign manager said the team was fundraising and will post finance figures at the end of the quarter; as of March 31, Nunes had raised over $3 million.

Nunes isn't the only congressman facing upset constituents: Since Trump's election, California’s representatives have faced lively crowds at town halls and district events, with many voters urging the delegation to take a hard stance against the new administration and policies.

The latest GOP move to rankle some constituents was last week's House vote approving the Republican health care billCalifornia’s 14 Republican members of Congress, including Nunes, voted to support the legislation.

This post has been updated.

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