|Member of the|
U.S. House of Representatives
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2005
|Preceded by||Cal Dooley|
|Constituency||20th district (2005–2013)|
16th district (2013–present)
|Member of the California Senate|
from the 16th district
December 5, 1994 - November 30, 2002
|Preceded by||Phil Wyman|
|Succeeded by||Dean Florez|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
from the 30th district
December 4, 1978 - November 30, 1994
|Preceded by||Kenneth L. Maddy|
|Succeeded by||Brian Setencich|
James Manuel Costa
April 13, 1952
Fresno, California, U.S.
|Residence(s)||San Joaquin Valley, California, U.S.|
|Education||California State University, Fresno (BA)|
James Manuel Costa (born April 13, 1952) is the U.S. representative for California's 16th congressional district. Serving as a Democrat in Congress since 2013, he represented California's 20th congressional district from 2005 to 2013. The district includes most of Fresno. Costa served in the California State Assembly from 1978 to 1994 and in the State Senate from 1994 to 2002. At the time of his election to the California State Legislature, he was the youngest member of the legislature at the age of 26. During his time in the California State Assembly, he served as the Majority Caucus Chair. Costa chaired the Blue Dog Coalition and was ranking member of the United States House Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture.
Born in Fresno, Costa is a third-generation family farmer. His grandparents emigrated from the Azores in the early 20th century. He graduated from San Joaquin Memorial High School (1970) and from Fresno State (1974), where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He worked as a Special Assistant to Congressman John Krebs (1975–76) and as Administrative Assistant to Assemblyman Rick Lehman (1976–78).
Costa represented part of Fresno County in the state legislature for 24 years, serving in the State Assembly (1978–94) and the State Senate (1994-2002). In 1986, he was cited for soliciting prostitution after being arrested with a 19-year-old prostitute to whom Costa paid $50. Calling the incident "an error of judgment", he pleaded no contest to the charge.
In 2004, Costa entered the Democratic primary for the 20th district, which was opened up by the retirement of its seven-term incumbent, Cal Dooley. Dooley endorsed his chief of staff, Lisa Quigley, as his successor, but most of the state's Democratic Party establishment, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, endorsed Costa, who won the bruising primary and faced Republican state senator Roy Ashburn in November.
The 20th district is a heavily Democratic, 63% Latino-majority district; it gave Al Gore his highest vote total outside the state's two large conurbations (Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area in the north and Los Angeles and San Diego to the south). Nonetheless, the Republicans spent a substantial amount of money on the race. Ashburn's campaign made plays on Costa's name ("Costa's going to cost ya") and linked him to former governor Gray Davis, calling them "two taxing twins". Costa won the election with 54% of the vote to Ashburn's 46%. Ashburn kept the margin within single digits by winning heavily Republican Kings County.
Costa ran unopposed for reelection in 2006. The Democrats won control of the House in that election, and Costa became chair of the Natural Resources Committee's Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee. He is a member of the House Agriculture Committee.
Costa was reelected in 2008 with 74% of the vote, the highest percentage for a Democratic incumbent outside Sacramento, the Bay Area, and Southern California.
Costa was challenged for reelection by Republican nominee Andy Vidak. In his closest race yet, the race was officially called for Costa nearly three weeks after election day, with the unofficial final tally standing at 45,806 votes (51.8%) for Costa and 42,773 (48.2%) for Vidak.
For his first four terms, Costa represented a district including most of the majority-Latino portions of Fresno and Bakersfield. Redistricting after the 2010 census renumbered his district as the 21st and made it slightly more Republican. In February 2012, Costa announced that he would run in the newly formed 16th district, a much more compact district that included most of Fresno as well as most of Merced. That district had previously been the 19th, represented by freshman Republican Jeff Denham. Denham's home had been drawn into the neighboring 10th district (formerly the 18th district), and he sought reelection there. While most of Costa's old territory remained in the 21st, the new 16th absorbed most of the old 20th's share of Fresno County, including his home.
Costa faced Republican Brian Whelan in the general election. After the new districts were announced, it was reported that the NRCC considered Costa vulnerable to defeat, but had the district existed in 2008, Barack Obama would have carried it with 57% of the vote.
In November 2011, the League of Conservation Voters ran a series of television ads in Costa's district criticizing his environmental record. Costa was reelected with 54% of the vote.
Costa faced an unexpectedly close race against Republican Johnny Tacherra, a dairy farmer from rural Fresno County. On election night, Tacherra led by 736 votes, a margin that grew to 1,772 a few days later. Tacherra's lead narrowed as counting continued, and Costa ultimately defeated him by 1,319 votes. While Tacherra carried the district's portions of Merced and Madera counties, Costa defeated him in Fresno County by 9,600 votes.
On June 7, 2016, Costa was the sole Democratic candidate in the 2016 "top two" primary, and was ahead on June 28, with 50,917 votes (55.9%). In the general election he again faced Tacherra, who had received 30,342 votes (33.1%). Costa was reelected with 58% of the vote to Tacherra's 42%.
On November 6, 2018, Costa defeated the only Republican candidate, Elizabeth Heng, in the "top two" primary, 53% to 47%. He was reelected in a Democratic "wave" in California, 57.5% to 42.5%.
Costa and Republican challenger Kevin Cookingham, a former Clovis Unified School District educator, advanced through the "top two" primary, besting two Democratic challengers. Costa then defeated Cookingham with 59.4% of the vote to Cookingham's 40.6%.
As of October 2021, Costa had voted in line with Joe Biden's stated position 100% of the time.
Costa opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade, saying, "this ruling strips women of their freedom to make their own decisions and the constitutional right to privacy."
Costa co-sponsored the bipartisan Agricultural Certainty for Reporting Emissions (ACRE) Act. The act would strip provisions from Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which was responsible for ensuring cleanup of industrial toxic waste dumps, oil spills, and chemical tank explosions environmental regulations on farmland. If enacted, the act would reduce transparency by protecting livestock farmers from changes to waste storage and disposal methods. Another provision would protect farmers from strict water laws, regulated under the Clean Water Act.
In May 2016, Costa was one of two Democrats to support the unprecedented step of overturning a District of Columbia referendum. The measure, passed by a vast majority of D.C. voters, would allow the District to spend its own tax dollars without congressional approval.
In January 2015, Costa was one of 28 House Democrats to vote to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Costa was one of five House Democrats to voted to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia and to support the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.
Costa accused Turkey, a NATO member, of inciting the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, saying, "Azerbaijan has continued to fuel this fire by failing to recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Artsakh, while Turkey has helped enable this aggression." On October 1, 2020, he co-signed a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that condemned Azerbaijan's offensive operations against the Armenian-populated Republic of Artsakh, denounced Turkey's role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and called for an immediate ceasefire.
Costa was reportedly a holdout vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in March 2010. He ultimately voted in favor of the legislation. To gain Costa's vote, the House leadership reportedly promised Costa and Dennis Cardoza funding for a medical school for California's Central Valley.
On November 19, 2015, Costa voted for HR 4038, legislation that would effectively halt the resettlement of refugees from Syria and Iraq to the U.S.
In August 2021, Costa joined a group of conservative Democrats, dubbed "The Unbreakable Nine", who threatened to derail the Biden administration's $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package meant to tackle the nation's infrastructure.
Costa has advocated creating a high-speed rail system that would go up and down California as well as across the nation at speeds of 225 miles per hour. He has introduced many bills supporting these rails; so far, none have passed. Miller[who?] compared rail projects to Eisenhower's highway expansion and pleaded to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and President Barack Obama for help in with this project.
In April 2008, Costa wrote a piece in Capitol Weekly calling for high-speed rail in California.
In December 2017, Costa introduced legislation to allow some Hmong- and Laotian-American veterans to be buried in U.S. national cemeteries. The legislation applies to Hmong and Laotian veterans who fought alongside the U.S. against North Vietnamese forces in the 1960s and 1970s. The bill, which does not allow for burials at Arlington National Cemetery, applies only to veterans who pass away on or after the bill's enactment. The bill was enacted in March 2018 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.