Logan Downing / The Collegian
David Valadao and Amanda Renteria, who are competing for 21st Congressional District seat, took part in a debate Saturday in Fresno State’s North Gym – the first of four debates leading up to the Nov. 4 election.
The debate, sponsored by Univision Fresno and Bakersfield, was held entirely in Spanish. Valadao, a Hanford Republican and incumbent, and Renteria, a Sanger Democrat, fielded questions ranging from immigration reform, water and the California drought, high-speed rail, the economy and education.
The candidates were given one minute for each response and 30 seconds for a rebuttal. David Ibarra, an anchor for Univision 21 in Fresno, moderated the event.
Prior to the debate, both candidates said the focus heading into Saturday was to distinguish themselves from one another. Though the candidates shared similar stances on several topics – both said they were in favor of immigration reform – they differed in opinion when asked by Ibarra whether they supported state minimum wage increases.
California’s minimum wage increased from $8 to $9 an hour in July, the state’s first wage increase since 2008, and is scheduled to be bumped up to $10 in 2016.
“We need to have a wage that people can live on,” Renteria said in Spanish. “Families who work hard shouldn’t be poor.”
Valadao, on the other hand, said any further increases would hurt small, local businesses.
Renteria, who grew up in Woodlake learning English and Spanish, was more fluent in the language than Valadao, who is of Portuguese descent. Valadao said he learned Spanish in high school mainly through talking with farm workers.
The aim of Saturday’s Spanish-language debate was to engage Hispanic voters. The 21st Congressional District covers all of Kings County and parts of Tulare, Kern and Fresno counties and has one of the highest proportions of Spanish-speaking residents in the country.
“It took some bravery for [Valadao] to even go along with that on his part,” said Andrew Alvarez, a Fresno State political science student.
The debate “was awesome for the Central Valley, and it made sense for the people and the constituency, that they are looking to encourage [Latinos] to vote,” Alvarez said.
Fresno State alumnus Cestino Rodriguez, 70, of Sanger, said the debate allowed him to see what stances the candidates took on popular topics.
“I thought he [Valadao] handled himself quite well,” Rodriguez said. “But the record is the record when you vote against the Dream Act. It’s there. You can’t argue with that. You can’t deny it in front of us hoping to get it through.”
The debate will be aired on KFTV Univision 21 in Fresno and KABE Univision 39 in Bakersfield on Oct. 11, and on Fresno radio stations KOND 92.1 FM, KRDA 107.5 and KLLE 107.9 on Oct. 12.
The two will engage in three more debates this month. Next up is a one-hour live debate Tuesday at California State University, Bakersfield, followed by two debates on Thursday.
Vice President Joe Biden is traveling to Bakersfield on Tuesday for the “Rally for the Valley” event organized by the Renteria and Alex Padilla campaigns.
Valadao won 63 percent of the June 3 primary election vote and Renteria won 25.6 percent.