Michael Eggman — a lifelong Central Valley resident — doesn’t like what he sees.
Double-digit unemployment. Crumbling schools. A criminal justice system in disarray.
Eggman said he’s taking on two-term Congressman Jeff Denham as a Democrat after looking around the place that he once knew and noted that it’s barely recognizable.
And when he hears economists talk about how the Central Valley that he loves so much is becoming the new Appalachia, Eggman winces. He knows what sort of connotation that has in the minds of the people who live outside of the area and believes that it hampers chances of recovery.
But all is not lost.
Eggman, a Turlock native and Fresno State graduate that runs a beekeeping business and farms almonds, believes that the 10th Congressional District needs somebody that will fight for its people – something he says that Denham hasn’t done well enough.
“He fights for his party and not the people that he represents. Its partisan politics – he voted 90 percent of the time on the party line while he has been in congress,” Eggman said. “He voted to shut down the government and put 800,000 people out of work.
“He’s talking about putting Medicare on a voucher system which would be terrible for our seniors – terrible for seniors – and he’s letting big insurance companies charge women more for the services that they receive. That’s not fighting for your constituents.”
The district includes Manteca, Ripon, Escalon and all of Stanislaus County.
Despite Eggman’s outsider status – he’s never held elected office – he’s garnered the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the organization put Eggman on the “Red to Blue” program list as an emerging race back in March.
His sister, Susan Talamantes Eggman, represents the 13th District in the California State Assembly and had prior experience as a Stockton City Councilwoman.
And nobody can accuse Eggman’s family of being handed anything.
His mother’s family immigrated to California from Mexico, and his father’s family came to the Central Valley to escape the fallow fields of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. Those humble agricultural roots played a role in his deciding to plant his own right in the heart of California. He has since built a successful small business that allows him to travel up and down the area providing bees during almond pollination season.
He gets to talk to people. He gets to hear their thoughts and their feelings and their complaints.
They chewed his ear on water: “I think that it’s time that we upgrade that infrastructure and start looking at surface storage and other ways that we can capture existing water. Maybe it’s time to start looking at underground storage facilities where we can capture even more water during wet years and recharging aquifers that get depleted during the dry ones. We need to come up with systems to desalinate the brackish water to lessen the saline content and look at ways we can do the same thing over on the coast. We need to invest in all of these small things – Californians realize how precious a natural resource this is and we need to be better stewards to make sure we utilize all of it.”
They chewed his ear on crime: “Maybe we need to have federal agencies start working with our local municipalities – Stockton has a really good program and did some weekend sweeps recently where they pulled a bunch of felons off the street and we should look at something like that across the district. The Ryan budget calls for 3,500 less federal law enforcement officers and here we have a 70 percent higher violent crime rate and a 60 percent higher property crime rate and that’s absurd to me. We have a prison system bursting at the seams that is letting people out early and that’s not going to bring the crime rate down here in the Central Valley. We need to work on cooperative programs that will resolve this. We need to have a congressman that will fight for us.”
And they chewed his ear on representation: “That’s what the founders had in mind. Government that’s elected by the people from the community – especially in the House of Representatives. It’s refreshing to me that a farmer from a farm community has a chance to represent his community. And that response has been great from the people. People love the message and they’re tired of politics as usual. They thank me for putting myself out there, and I appreciate living in a system that allows me to do that.”
Eggman’s campaign has become second nature by this point. He’s chatted and he’s glad-handed and he’s smiled and he’s laughed. He knows how to talk to people, and he hears what it is that they have to say.