For more than two decades, the Fresno Bee‘s editorial board has supported Rep. Devin Nunes’ political ambitions, starting in 1996, when, at just 23 years old, he unseated a longstanding incumbent on a community college board. “Who doesn’t love a young upstart college student who is eager to get into politics and have his voice heard?” Gail Marshall, the paper’s former editorial page editor, told me earlier this year. The Bee has recommended the Central California Republican in all of his election and reelection bids ever since—until now.
On Saturday, the Bee‘s editorial board announced it is recommending Nunes’ challenger, Andrew Janz, a 34-year-old Fresno prosecutor who has been waging a high-energy campaign against the prominent ally of President Donald Trump. The Bee said Janz “offers the best chance to both lead the district by attending to its issues and then by striving for bipartisanship in Washington, D.C.” Republicans still have a strong advantage in the 22nd District, and Nunes leads in the polls.
The Bee throwing its support behind Janz is little surprise. For nearly a year, the paper and the congressman have been trading jabs. Nunes has called the Bee a “left-wing rag” and a “propaganda machine,” accusing it of colluding with “outside groups” to attack him. For their part, the Bee‘s editorial pages have lambasted Nunes for being “Trump’s stooge,” casting the chair of the House Intelligence Committee as a once-reasonable politician who now trades in hyperpartisan conspiracy theories that are damaging to the country and his Central Valley district.
The most recent flare-up occurred late last month, when Nunes’ campaign mailed constituents a 38-page glossy magazine dedicated entirely to attacking the paper’s editorial board and its reporting. It insinuated the paper was in league with antifascist activists and had participated with Janz in political stunts meant to target Nunes.
In response to the mailer, the Bee‘s editorial board published a blistering rebuke. “Your cherry-picked half truths, mischaracterizations and outright lies aren’t worth the glossy paper they’re printed on. No amount of donor money can buy integrity,” wrote columnist
Here’s a secret about journalists, Devin. We’re a little suspicious of everybody, regardless of political stripe. We’re not inclined to take anyone at their word. Trust but verify. When a reporter sits at the keyboard, they’re nobody’s friend.
So when you try to align us with liberal extremists or draw us as socialists with hammer and sickle flags, the punches don’t land.
The Bee didn’t dwell on its ugly battle with Nunes in its recommendation of Janz, whom it painted as a moderate Democrat who will work across party lines and serve constituents. “Janz has hitched much of his appeal to: Being accessible and accountable,” the Bee wrote. “Nunes has completely avoided town-hall meetings in Visalia, Clovis or Fresno so voters could hear him and ask questions. Janz promises to hold at least four town hall meetings a year and have mobile office hours.”
Janz sat down for an interview with the Bee‘s editorial board as it went about determining whom to support. Nunes, as has become his habit, did not respond to its requests.