By VICTOR A. PATTON l August 9, 2023
Central Valley Journalism Collaborative
MERCED (CVJC) — Less than a year after losing one of the country’s closest congressional races, Merced Democrat Adam Gray said Wednesday he will seek a rematch in 2024 with Republican John Duarte for the 13th Congressional District.
The 45-year-old former state Assembly member told CVJC he’s running on his record of playing an active role in key upcoming projects in Merced and the Valley, such as establishing a medical school at UC Merced and extending the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) commuter train from Stockton to Merced County.
Gray touted his 10 years in the state Assembly as a moderate who works across the partisan divide, citing his role in founding the bipartisan California Problem Solvers Caucus.
Gray said he also has the Valley’s interests at heart. For example, he asked for an audit of the state Department of Water Resources that ultimately determined the department made only limited progress in accounting for the effects of climate change in its forecasts of the water supply.
“I focused on always putting the San Joaquin Valley’s interests or the Central Valley’s interests first, not political party agendas,” Gray told CVJC. “I have always found the two political party agendas rarely include what’s most important to the folks who live here.”
Gray also was critical of Duarte, alleging he has not done enough to collaborate across the partisan divide to solve Valley problems. “He’s not standing up for the Valley, he’s busy being a lackey for Republican party leadership,” Gray said.
Duarte, in an emailed statement to CVJC, disagreed with Gray’s characterization of his time in Congress.
“I am unafraid to stand up to both parties when they hurt our Valley families — whether it’s President Biden’s policies that have sent food and gas prices sky high; or my own party’s immigration bill that would have cost Valley jobs,” said Duarte, a Modesto farmer and businessman.
“I will always work with both Republicans and Democrats to fight for police funding to keep our kids safe, water for our families and farms, and good roads and bridges. The Valley is my home, and I will never stop fighting for it.”
Last November’s race for the 13th District, which runs roughly from Lathrop to Coalinga in California’s San Joaquin Valley, was one of the tightest congressional races in the nation with a count that lasted for weeks.
In the end, Duarte edged out Gray by less than half a percentage point, or fewer than 600 votes. The decision helped Republicans squeak out a slim majority over Democrats in the House of Representatives. Consequently, Democrats must win in swing areas like the 13th District if they want to reclaim the House.
The 13th Congressional District was redrawn two years ago, moving from the East Bay to the San Joaquin Valley. It includes all of Merced County; most of the population of Madera County; and parts of Stanislaus, Fresno, and San Joaquin counties.
When asked what will be different in 2024 compared to his 2022 defeat to Duarte, Gray said he believes the presidential election could work in his favor by boosting voter participation.
For example, last November less than 45% of registered voters in Merced County cast ballots, down substantially from the 78.7% who voted in the 2020 presidential race.
“I am confident that, going into a presidential election, there’s going to be a lot of attention,” Gray said. “A lot of folks (will be) coming out to the polls, and I am confident that my message of bipartisanship, collaboration and fighting for the Valley is going to be the winning message at the end of the day.”
Victor A. Patton is the community engagement editor for the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, a nonprofit newsroom based in Merced. Sign up for CVJC’s free Substack list here and follow CVJC on Facebook.
This story was published in partnership with the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, a nonprofit and nonpartisan community newsroom. To get regular coverage from the CVJC, sign up for CVJC’s free Substack list here and follow CVJC on Facebook.
Assemblymember Adam Gray spearheads efforts to restore 6 miles of Bear Creek in Merced
CVV News l October 26, 2022
MERCED — Recalling the days he spent playing football on the banks of Bear Creek, Assemblymember Adam Gray joined Merced city and county officials in announcing a $6 million restoration project on six miles of the waterway that flows through the city of Merced.
The money will be used to restore the creek from McKee Road to 16th Street in Merced. The funding will be used to help remove invasive plants, restore eroded banks and pay for cleanup of the creek bed and its banks. It is hoped the restoration will create a more hospitable wildlife habitat.
“When I was a kid, I used to come down here in this park and play football; I rode my bicycle on the bike trails,” said Gray, who spoke at a press conference on Tuesday in Albert Larson Park. “It was beautiful. By restoring this creek, we can pass this asset to the next generation.”
Gray said work already done by the city, Mayor Matthew Serratto and volunteers from the Bear Creek Yacht Club has been instrumental in setting the stage for state funding.
Mayor Serratto talked about restoring the connections that so many people from Merced once felt for Bear Creek.
“People talk about swimming in this creek,” said Serratto. “They talk about swimming in it and fishing in it. And a lot of folks talk about tubing on the creek. Adam called this a gem of the community; we’re of the same mind. We need to restore that gem and Adam has been instrumental in getting this done.”
The first phase of the project will begin with surveying then proceed to permitting, said city manager Stephanie Dietz, and require 12 to 18 months. The full restoration is expected to take up to 6 years.
“This is going to be an important project for the city but also for the entire county,” said Supervisor Josh Pedrozo. “The entire 6 miles that is being restored runs through my district, so it’s especially important to me. And having Adam as a partner has been very important. He worked hard to make it happen. That vocal leadership in Sacramento makes sure we are heard. Without someone willing to raise his voice, we wouldn’t be.”
Gray spent a lot of time following the presentation talking to reporters who were getting a closer look at the creek, which included some floating debris near the presentation site.
“I am excited about the opportunities we have here,” said Gray. “We all share the desire to make this an enjoyable place for our community. It’s a gem. And we’ve got to make sure that everyone can use it and enjoy just as we did years ago.”
Audit of Broken State Water Forecasts Approved
CVV News l June 28, 2022
SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) announced the Joint Legislative Audit Committee has approved his request to audit California’s water operations. The audit will shine a light on the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board and their failures to accurately forecast California’s water supply and the impacts of those flawed forecasts on reservoir operations and the allocation of water to rights holders.
Gray cited the overestimation and premature release of 700,000 acre-feet of water last year as one of his prime considerations
“Errors on this scale have real and measurable consequences,” said Gray. “The managers of the largest local, state, and federal reservoirs use this information to determine when to let water accumulate and when to let water out to make room for the coming snowmelt. Growers use the information to predict how much water they can expect for their farms and how many acres they can afford to plant. The estimates are used to inform everything from flood control to power generation and water quality standards.”
Gray pointed out that other public agencies – including local irrigation districts and a federal agency whose duties include calculating how much water is in the annual snowpack – did not make similar mistakes.
“Other organizations forecasting the same water content and runoff estimates from the same patches of snow have already adapted,” said Gray. “DWR should be a leader in this space, but instead, they are playing catchup to many of the same organizations that have been telling them to fix these problems for decades.”
The Department of Water Resources released huge sums of water last year in anticipation of spring runoff that did not materialize, draining reservoirs and leaving operators with less stored water than was necessary. This mismanagement is especially noteworthy as the drought persists into 2022 and water becomes increasingly scarce.
“No one expects DWR or any of these organizations to get the number exactly right,” said Gray. “But when the state’s best forecasts are demonstrably inferior to local and federal forecasts we need to ask why, and we need to fix the problems as soon as possible. Until we understand what has gone wrong with the agencies charged with managing California’s water, we cannot understand how to fix the problem.”
With the audit now approved, a representative from the State Auditor’s office told the Committee the audit would take six to seven months to complete.