The tech industry, which donated about 40 times the amount of money to Clinton as to Trump last year, is a huge asset to Harder. But he knows some local voters might see him as a carpetbagger: He was educated at Stanford and Harvard, and spent the bulk of his career in white-collar consulting and tech jobs.
Harder, who still has plenty of connections to the Central Valley, including his parents in Turlock, said he spends all his time talking about three important local issues: jobs, health care and immigration.
“He’s trying to run a local race,” said Ethan Kurzweil, a partner at Bessemer who’s worked closely with Harder and plans to donate to his campaign. “The needs of his district really have nothing to do with tech priorities.”
However, immigration is one issue that unites Silicon Valley and the Central Valley against Trump’s “America first” agenda and his proposal to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. While tech counts on engineering talent from overseas, about one-fifth of Stanislaus County is foreign-born, primarily from Latin America.
“Half our kids are Spanish speakers,” said Kate Nyegaard, an 81-year-old resident of Modesto, who has spent almost her entire life in the district and previously sat on the school board.
Nyegaard and her husband, a doctor from Paraguay, recently hosted Harder at their house for a two-hour meet and greet. Based on the candidate’s views on health care, climate change, immigration and women’s rights, Nyegaard said she’s all in for the young candidate.
“Denham is not really paying attention to what the people here want,” said Nyegaard, who also happens to be the sister of film director and Modesto native George Lucas. “We could use some new faces and new energy.”