Tulare County farmer asking court to make Devin Nunes stop calling himself one, too

Rep. Devin Nunes speaks to attendees at a September 2016 water forum in Tulare.
Rep. Devin Nunes speaks to attendees at a September 2016 water forum in Tulare. Fresno Bee file

Several residents within California’s 22nd Congressional District filed a petition in Sacramento Superior Court on Thursday morning, asking the court to remove “farmer” from Rep. Devin Nunes’ description on California ballots.

The petition was filed on behalf of Paul Buxman, a Dinuba stone fruit farmer, as well as Daniel O’Connell and Hope Nisly, whose occupations are not listed.

O’Connell is an active advocate for local farmers and is the executive director of the Central Valley Partnership. His Facebook account lists his occupation as an ecosystem services consultant for the University of California system’s Agriculture and Natural Resources department.

Nisly is a writer and librarian at Fresno Pacific University. She lives in Reedley.

“I don’t believe (Nunes) has had any income from farming for at least 10 years,” Buxman said. “He has some interest in a few wineries, but he’s distanced himself from those and says he has no involvement in their day-to-day management.”

Buxman, who said he once supported Nunes, said his congressman has forgotten about farmers and thus has no business identifying as one. Buxman listed three things that have gone wrong during Nunes’ congressional tenure: his well has gone dry and he’s lost orchards due to lack of water; his neighbors’ workers have been targeted in ICE audits; and the recent rush of tariffs has ruined the market for his crops.

The 69-year-old farmer said he bore no ill will toward Nunes, “whom I pray for regularly.” But Buxman said he felt the need to speak out for his fellow farmers, who he meets with regularly at church and community gatherings.

He added that Nunes is welcome on his farm any time.

Nunes’ campaign did not respond to The Bee’s request for comment.

The legal action was organized and paid for by Democratic super PAC Fight Back California, which also pays for the three billboards targeting Nunes on various issues along Highway 99.

Buxman’s petition names Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth and Tulare County Clerk Michelle Baldwin as respondents. It claims Nunes’ self-identification as a farmer is “false and misleading” and violates election law. It uses Nunes’ federal disclosure filings as evidence, noting that he declares himself “merely a limited partner” in two wineries in Napa and San Luis Obispo counties.

Fight Back California spokeswoman Robin Swanson said the petition will now be assigned to a judge, who will accept briefs from Buxman and Nunes and schedule a hearing. The process must be concluded by Aug. 30, she said, but Swanson expected it to wrap up much sooner than that.

Rory Appleton: 559-441-6015, @RoryDoesPhonics
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