Valadao is one of five House Republicans who represent a Hispanic-majority district. His inaugural victory came in the same year his party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Republicans have looked to rebrand themselves within the Hispanic community and party leaders have embraced immigration reform in the wake of the poor performance in 2012.
A combination of deep ties to the agricultural industry, a relatable biographical story and the absence of a strong opponent helped Valadao win a district dominated by the nation’s fastest growing ethnic demographic.
“They polled against me, but they decided to not spend a whole lot of money against me, and again I think that falls on my background— the way I approach issues,” he said.
Valadao won his district by 18 percent last year and maintained a huge fundraising advantage over Democrat John Hernandez — who lacked support from the national party. Romney lost the same district to Obama by 11 points.
“If you look at the history of my district, [it] has elected Republicans locally,” he said, noting that he won a seat in the state assembly by overcoming a similar Democratic registration advantage in 2010.
Only one other Republican, fellow Californian Rep. Gary Miller, sits in a district that went more heavily for Obama....
Valadao’s family owns two dairies and more than 1,000 acres of farmland in California, where he still lives. He said it is easier for immigrants to identify with some of the core principles of the party if you can break through the initial, negative perception of the GOP.
He is fluent in both Portuguese and Spanish.
“Even on my ranch, when I talk to employees of mine who are immigrants as well, both Portuguese and Hispanic, it is always interesting to see the look on their face, when they’re like, ‘wait a minute, this is what you are fighting for?’ ” Valadao said.