Democrat Michael Eggman, who lost congressional races to Republican Jeff Denham in 2014 and 2016, will try a third time this year, he announced Monday.
News of Eggman's candidacy affected a Sunday Democratic caucus, with no clear-cut winner emerging from a field of five others who had spent months angling for the party endorsement.
Rather than rally behind a single strong candidate early in the race, Democrats may wait until the June Primary to see who will challenge Denham in November for the 10th Congressional District seat, which he has represented since 2010.
If not for Eggman's entry, Sunday's caucus vote might have given a measure of confidence to Josh Harder and T.J. Cox. Respectively, they captured 40 and 39 percent of delegates' votes, while Dotty Nygard, Virginia Madueño and Sue Zwahlen picked up 5 percent, 3.5 percent and zero percent. Confronted with the Eggman rumor, seven delegates (12 percent) declined to choose among the others.
Eggman, a Turlock beekeeper and grower, lost to Denham by 12.2 percentage points in 2014. The gap narrowed in 2016 to 3.4 percentage points.
Eggman, 53, later founded Red to Blue California, a Democratic organization targeting seven congressional Republicans in California deemed vulnerable this year, including Denham, 50. Eggman resigned as the group's president, hoping his third try against Denham will be charmed.
"I've seen what a Donald Trump presidency has done to our country, our state and this valley, because Republicans like Jeff Denham put party before country time after time," Eggman said. Others convinced him that the other Democratic candidates could not "beat an entrenched incumbent like Jeff Denham," Eggman said, so he joined the race.
Harder's camp said he would have no comment about Eggman's candidacy.
Zwahlen said, "Other candidates entering or exiting this race, especially someone who has lost this race twice, have no bearing on my resolve to be in this race."
The National Republican Congressional Committee, meanwhile, mocked Eggman's candidacy as a desperation move resulting from "much hand-wringing from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over their extraordinarily weak field."
Jessica Self, incoming president of the Central Valley Democratic Club, said, "Democrats are not necessarily known for doing things the easy way. But I would take any one of these candidates over Jeff Denham."
Michael Barkley, also a Democratic candidate, did not seek the party's endorsement, and cast his delegate's vote for someone else Sunday. Former Democratic candidates Lisa Battista, Mateo Morelos Bedolla and Seth Vaughn have dropped out of the race.
Also running are independents Terra Snover and Scott Shoblom. Others conceivably could enter the race before a March deadline. The top two vote-getters in June, regardless of party, will advance to the November ballot.
The 10th Congressional District covers Stanislaus County and south San Joaquin County. Voter registration leans slightly Democratic.
Former U.S. Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose will continue as chairman of Red to Blue California.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390