Democrats Ready to Land Recruit in Elusive California District

by Nathan L. Gonzales September 20, 2013 · 9:51 AM EDT

It’s no secret Democrats whiffed at a huge opportunity in California’s 21st District last cycle. And while it’s taken them awhile to get their footing, it looks like they have found a candidate that could run a competitive race that matches the competitive district.

In 2012, Republican David Valadao won the Northern California seat with 58 percent over a flawed Democratic nominee who national Democratic strategists tried to defeat in the primary. Because President Barack Obama simultaneously carried the seat with 55 percent and the district is about 70 percent Hispanics, Democrats desperately searched for a credible contender this cycle.

Now it looks as if Central Valley native and former Capitol Hill aide Amanda Renteria is poised to enter the race for the Democrats, according to operatives tracking the race.

Roll Call profiled Renteria in 2008 as she ascended to become chief of staff to Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow. She was 33 and the only Latina to head a Senate office at the time.

Renteria is originally from the small town of Woodlake, located in Tulare County and less than an hour east of the 21st District. She went on to Stanford, where she played a year of basketball and four years of softball, and then worked for Goldman Sachs for three years.

She earned her MBA from Harvard and worked for the City of San Jose before moving to Washington in 2006 to join the staff of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Because Renteria wrote her senior thesis on women in politics, working for the California Democrat and fellow Stanford graduate was a perfect fit. Though Renteria had never set foot in Michigan, that didn’t prohibit her from getting hired in Stabenow’s office later and quickly rising to become her top aide.

Democrats are hopeful that Renteria will be able to leverage her contacts on Capitol Hill and her California roots into a quality campaign against Valadao.

Republicans are well-aware of her potential candidacy. On Aug. 9, National Republican Congressional Committee Digital Director Gerrit Lansing purchased

Otherwise, there is scant mention online of Renteria’s congressional interest.

On Tuesday, the local Hanford Sentinel ran a list of upcoming community events that included a Sept. 24 meeting of the Kings County Democratic Party where Renteria is scheduled to be the guest speaker. The meeting will be held at Ethel Reds Chop House in Lemoore.

California’s 21st District is rated a Tossup/Tilt Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report and could end up being one of the most competitive races in the country.

Even though the district leans Democratic, it won’t be easy to knock off Valadao in the upcoming midterm election. The GOP congressman will start with about a half-million-dollar edge in campaign cash. And Democrats recently lost a very competitive special election for a state Senate seat that overlaps with much of the congressional district.

“Amanda knows the importance of celebrating,” Stabenow said in the 2008 Roll Call profile. “I think it’s all part of team building, which she is very good at.”

It’s safe to say that when Renteria announces, there will be a celebration at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.