Who will oppose Denham for Congress in the June Primary?

Ted Howze
Ted Howze

An ever-changing list of people running for the 10th Congressional District — currently held by incumbent Jeff Denham — is at last finalized, with a couple of last-minute surprises.

Dotty Nygard became the fifth once-running Democrat to quit the crowded race, leaving five other Democrats hoping to oust Denham, R-Turlock. Also intriguing is the late addition of Republican Ted Howze, who signed up just before Friday’s deadline.

Some Democrats are cynical about Howze’s entry, accusing Republicans of trying to pull a fast one. With far more candidates in the race, it’s possible that Democratic votes in the June primary could be so diluted that none of the five would advance to the fall election.

California’s open-primary rules put the top two vote-getters in June on the November ballot, regardless of party.

Josh Harder, a Democratic candidate, said: “Having a far-right candidate like Howze would make Denham’s votes look less atrocious.” Inserting Howze “is Denham’s desperate attempt” to distract from his record, Harder said, adding, “I am confident Central Valley voters won’t be fooled by these insider tactics.”

Andrew Feldman, spokesman for the campaign of Democratic candidate Michael Eggman, said, “(Republicans) are using underhanded tactics to try to game the system.”

Howze, however, said that view “couldn’t be further from the truth.” Although the former Turlock city councilman is a conservative Republican, there is no love lost between him and Denham, Howze said.

“I feel like Jeff is not transparent enough with his constituents,” said Howze, who now lives in Stockton. “He’s not available to them. He’s not acting according to their best interests.”

District 10 includes Stanislaus County and south San Joaquin County. Democrats, hoping to win back a majority in the House, have targeted it as one of the GOP’s most vulnerable, and as many as 10 Democrats and two independents over the past few months have said they would oppose Denham.

Still on the June ballot are Democrats Virginia Madueño, Sue Zwahlen, Michael Barkley, Harder and Eggman. Those who dropped out are Nygard, Lisa Battista, Seth Vaughn, Mateo Bedolla and T.J. Cox, who recently switched to the 21st District to challenge David Valadao of Hanford, another GOP incumbent deemed vulnerable.

“I am ending my campaign and rejoining the fight as an activist and organizer,” Nygard said Friday in a social media post.

Independent Scott Shoblom also will appear on the June ballot, while Terra Snover, an independent as well, left the race.

Zwahlen had nothing to say Tuesday about Howze’s entry. “I’m singularly focused on my campaign,” she said.

Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390