For the first time in 16 years, The Fresno Bee is endorsing someone other than Republican Rep. Devin Nunes for his Central Valley district in California.
“Today The Fresno Bee takes a step it has not made since before 2002: It is recommending a candidate for the 22nd congressional district who is not Devin Nunes,” the editorial board wrote in a fiery editorial on Saturday.
The Bee announced its support for Nunes’ Democratic challenger, political newcomer Andrew Janz. According to the paper’s editorial board, Janz, who is a Fresno prosecutor, “offers the best chance” for representing the district and for bringing bipartisanship to Washington, D.C.
The Bee praised Janz’s status as an underdog operating outside the Democratic establishment, noting the 34-year-old moderate “can act with a degree of independence from party politics and do what he thinks is best for the 22nd District.” Janz has raised more money than any of Nunes’ previous Democratic challengers, KQED and Mother Jones reported.
Nunes has been at odds with his hometown paper, which his campaign called “a textbook example of fake news” after the paper disclosed his longtime investment in a winery that was sued in 2016 for a cocaine and prostitute-filled yacht party.
“I’ve heard it characterize that [Nunes] is at war with The Bee,” Fresno Bee Editor Joe Kieta told HuffPost. “Honestly, I don’t see it as The Bee being at war with him. We’re just doing our job as reporters.”
Tensions escalated this week after his campaign sent out a nearly 40-page mailer to constituents trying to discredit the paper.
The cover featured an illustration of drunk, Kool-Aid-drinking bees on a ship sinking into a sea littered with socialist propaganda.
“This may be a strategy he’s trying out to discredit local media or any media that has covered him in an unbiased and public way,” Kieta said.
The paper, which said Nunes declined to be interviewed, also slammed his partisan record on protecting President Donald Trump from the Russia investigation and his vote on health care that would have limited Medicaid.
“The only thing that could possibly be less surprising than the Bee endorsing Janz is if the Huffington Post endorsed Janz,” Nunes’ chief of staff Anthony Ratekin said in an email to HuffPost.
In contrast, The Bee praised Janz’s stance on gun control as a gun owner, his support for covering pre-existing conditions, and his focus on finding a solution for the Central Valley’s increasing water problems.
This article has been updated with comment from Nunes and The Fresno Bee.
Clarification: A previous version of this story attributed a comment made by Nunes’ chief of staff to Nunes.