Fresno Prosecutor Hopes to Defy Odds, Take Down Devin Nunes

Fresno prosecutor Andrew Janz never expected to be running for Congress, but he says the tipping point was when his representative, Devin Nunes, "mishandled classified information" on the Russia investigation.

That's when the Fresno County deputy district attorney decided to jump in.

"Defeating Devin Nunes would be a great service to the country," Janz told KQED while campaigning at the California Democratic  Convention in San Diego on Friday. "He's really working every day to undermine the special prosecutor's investigation into the Russian meddling in the 2016 election."

Janz, 34, has the serious demeanor of, well, a prosecutor. "I'm in front of a jury all the time, and I always try to convey a sense of urgency," he said. "I'm working on having a little more of a smile, but I think people are looking for serious folks in government."

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report doesn't include Nunes' district in its list of "competitive" House races. It's solid red. Nunes defeated Democrat Louie Campos in 2016 by a whopping 35 percentage points.

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Janz says he is undaunted.

But Democrats have struggled to win House seats in the Central Valley, even in districts where they have a voter registration advantage. Nunes's history in agriculture makes him a good fit for a district with farmland as far as the eye can see. Janz sees the ag issue in a different way.

"Many in the district, including myself, see the importance of growing food," Janz said. "We think it’s a national security issue. We can’t have other people growing our food." In a district where water is the first, second and third issue on the minds of many voters, Janz will  have to overcome growers' suspicion of Democrats' pro-environmental agenda.

The Janz for Congress campaign is paying to have this billboard driven around the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego.

Despite the "David and Goliath" nature of this race, Janz has set an impressive pace in fundraising. His campaign manager Heather Greven says the campaign has taken in about $900,000 to date. Hosts of the popular Pod Save America show are helping. They added California's 22nd congressional district to their list of congressional districts they're hoping to flip to the Democrats.

Greven says the best single day of fundraising was the day after the infamous Russia memo Nunes released against the wishes of the FBI. Greven says the campaign raised $164,000 in single day.

Janz will need every penny and more if he hopes to knock off Nunes. The eight-term congressman reported having $3.8 million dollars in the bank at the end of January and no doubt has the ability to raise a lot more if needed.

Harking back to the Russia investigation, the Central Valley prosecutor says "the only way we can protect the integrity of the Mueller investigation is to take back the House of Representatives, and that fight runs through California and right through my district."