In this Wednesday, 19 September 2018 photo, farmworkers Joaquin Reynosa, left, and Jose Mejia, lay down irrigation pipes for the upcoming lettuce harvest in Huron, Calif. In Huron, jobs not displaced by changes in farming are mostly done by hand under a merciless sun and residents struggle to scrape by. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

By Brian Melley
19 October 2018

HURON, California (AP) – A rooster signals the start of the day as workers wearing sombreros and ball caps emerge from the shadows and shuffle past boarded-up businesses in this tiny farm town. They converge on a dimly lit dirt lot outside Panaderia de Dios, a bakery sweetening the air with the aroma of Mexican cookies and bread as workers catch rides to the fields.

Little else is sweet in Huron, where jobs not displaced by automation in farming are mostly done by hand, and residents struggle to scrape by.

“As soon as you make the money, the money goes away,” Martin Castro said before spending the day repeatedly bending to slice cantaloupes from vines. “I don’t like the life.”

California may be famous for its wealth, but there is a distinctly different part of the state where poverty prevails: places like this one halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The Central Valley has long been short on resources no matter which political party is in power. Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress have blamed incumbents for doing little to create higher-paying jobs, curb homelessness, clean up blight or solve disparities in health care and access to good schools.

Despite a big voter-registration advantage for Democrats in the district that includes Huron, they have struggled to unseat a three-term GOP congressman. In mid-September, campaign signs were nonexistent in town, where residents either can’t vote because they’re in the U.S. illegally or don’t vote because they’re more concerned about putting food on the table.

Despite Democrats’ 16-point registration advantage, Rep. David Valadao easily won re-election with the third-lowest vote count of any member of Congress in 2016. That’s despite Hillary Clinton carrying the district by 15 points.

“It’s a definite Democratic advantage, and that’s what is so bewildering to people who think Valadao should be unseated,” Fresno State political science professor Jeff Cummins said. “It’s extremely high poverty and low education and has a significantly Latino percentage, and all those factors contribute to incredibly low voter turnout. That offsets that advantage Democrats have with registration.” […]

“We’re in the Appalachians of the West,” Mayor Rey Leon said. “I don’t think enough urgency is being taken to resolve a problem that has existed for way too long.” [more]

California hopefuls blame incumbents as farm towns struggle

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