North Valley Congressman Dennis Cardoza is ending his Congressional career ... and a political career for the Merced Democrat that spans decades. Cardoza announced Thursday (10/20) that he will not seek re-election and will step down when his current term ends in 2012.
Cardoza is the 13th Democrat in the House to announce plans to leave Congress while seven Republicans have announced their intentions to retire. Cardoza was first elected to the 18th Congressional District in 2002, after defeating his former boss, mentor, and friend, Rep. Gary Condit, in the March Primary. At the time, Condit was the focus of media, public, and law enforcement scrutiny regarding his relationship with and the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy of Modesto. Cardoza went on to win the November election over Republican Dick Monteith... taking 52% of the vote. Like Condit before him, Cardoza became a leader of a group of moderate Democrats known as the Blue Dog Coalition.
By announcing his retirement, Cardoza ends any speculation of a possible battle between him and his friend and fellow Democrat, Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno, in seeking the 16th Congressional District seat. The 16th is a newly redrawn district that runs from Fresno County through Madera County to Merced County. Democrats hold a sizeable edge in voter registration in the new district ... already giving Costa an advantage in next year's election. Republicans are still looking for a strong candidate to challenge Costa for the District. Action News Political Analyst Tony Capozzi says the new district is suited for Jim Costa because the area is roughly the same region he represented when he was an Assemblyman in Sacramento. Rep. Costa released a statement regarding Cardoza's retirement saying "Dennis has been a great champion for the people of the San Joaquin Valley. It has been a privilege to serve with him and call him one of my closest friends. His candor, fair-mindedness, and dedication to finding real solutions to our nation's problems will be sorely missed."
Cardoza took a few parting shots at the Obama Administration, "screamers" in Congress, and the media in his retirement statement. Cardoza said "I am dismayed by the Administration's failure to understand and effectively address the current housing foreclosure crisis. Home foreclosures are destroying communities and crushing our economy, and the Administration's inaction is infuriating." Political Analyst Tony Capozzi thinks Cardoza served the Valley well and understands his frustration. Capozzi says Washington has too many "special interests" and it's difficult to get anything accomplished.
Cardoza also offered this advice to voters who are losing faith in our government and democracy: "For our country to change course, voters must aggressively punish extreme partisanship and rhetoric when they cast their ballots. The United States of America is too great a nation for us not to demand excellence in our leaders."
Below is the entire text of Rep. Cardoza's statement on not seeking re-election.
"I love the people of the Central Valley, and thank them for the confidence they have placed in me for over 20 years of elective office. While I plan to retire from public service after this term in Congress, I will energetically continue my efforts to improve California as a private citizen.
"I thank my wife, Kathie, our children and my entire family for their steadfast love and support. To my friends, campaign volunteers and contributors, I wish to say that nothing I have accomplished would have been possible without you. I also want to thank the many honorable public servants, both colleagues and staff, with whom I have served. They have become - and will remain - dear friends.
"Reflecting on our successes, I am most proud of our work to build community centers, new schools, roads and water infrastructure in both the Valley and throughout California. I am proud of efforts to better the lives of foster children, promote green energy technology, and provide law enforcement with the resources they need to make our communities safer. The number one industry in the Valley is agriculture, and our work to eliminate the "tractor tax" in California and write the 2008 Farm Bill will always stand out as major advances. Finally, as the first in my family to graduate from college, I will always be most proud of our success in establishing UC Merced, and will continue to work to build a full Medical School there.
"Looking back on disappointments, I am dismayed by the Administration's failure to understand and effectively address the current housing foreclosure crisis. Home foreclosures are destroying communities and crushing our economy, and the Administration's inaction is infuriating. As a leader of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, I am also disappointed by the broadcast media's general lack of attention to moderate members of Congress, and their failure to recognize those members of all ideologies who work together to build consensus and solve problems. The constant focus on 'screamers' and the 'horse race' of elections is smothering useful discourse and meaningful debate of public policy. This, in turn, is fueling the increasingly harsh tone in American politics. My experience tells me that those who shout the loudest, and give the most speeches, have the fewest good solutions for America's challenges.
"After nearly 20 years in elected office, I offer this advice: Voters need to reward statesmanship. Too many Americans are losing faith in our government and our democracy. For our country to change course, voters must aggressively punish extreme partisanship and rhetoric when they cast their ballots. The United States of America is too great a nation for us not to demand excellence in our leaders."
"I again want to thank the citizens of the Valley for allowing me the privilege of serving our community for all these years. We have overcome many challenges together, but I have no doubt that our best days are yet to come."