Jim Costa

James Manuel Costa, ComM /ˈkɒstə/ (born April 13, 1952) is the U.S. Representative for California's 16th congressional district, serving as a Democrat in Congress since 2013, having previously represented California's 20th congressional district from 2005 to 2013. The district includes most of Fresno. He previously served in the California State Assembly from 1978 until 1994, and in the State Senate from 1994 until 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 was chair of the Blue Dog Coalition[1] and ranking member of the United States House Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture.

Jim Costa
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from California
Assumed office
January 3, 2005
Preceded byCal Dooley
Constituency20th district (2005–2013)
16th district (2013–present)
Member of the California Senate
from the 16th district
In office
Preceded byPhil Wyman
Succeeded byDean Florez
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 30th district
In office
Preceded byKenneth L. Maddy
Succeeded byBrian Setencich
Personal details
James Manuel Costa

(1952-04-13) April 13, 1952
Fresno, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationCalifornia State University, Fresno (BA)

Early life and education

Born in Fresno, Costa is a third-generation family farmer. His grandparents emigrated from Portugal's Azores Islands 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 Richard Lehman (1976–78).

California Legislature

Costa represented part of Fresno County in the State Legislature for 24 years, serving in the California State Assembly (1978–94) and in the California 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.[2] Calling the incident "an error of judgement", he pleaded no contest to the charge.[2]

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political campaigns


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 Party 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 chairman 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 percent 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,[8] with the unofficial final tally standing at 45,806 votes (51.8%) for Costa and 42,773 votes (48.2%) for Vidak.


For his first four terms, Costa represented a district including most of the majority-Latino portions of Fresno and Bakersfield. However, redistricting following the 2010 census renumbered his district as the 21st district and made it slightly more Republican. In February 2012, Costa officially 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.[9] That district had previously been the 19th District, represented by freshman Republican Jeff Denham. However, 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.[10] However, had it existed in 2008, Barack Obama would have carried it with 57 percent of the vote.[11]

In November 2011, the League of Conservation Voters ran a series of television ads in Costa's district criticizing his environmental record.[12] Costa was reelected in 2012 with 54% of the vote.[13]


Costa faced an unexpectedly close race against Republican Johnny Tacherra, a dairyman from rural Fresno County. On election night, Tacherra led by 736 votes, a margin that grew to 1,772 votes a few days later. However, Tacherra's lead narrowed as counting continued, and Costa ultimately defeated him by 1,319 votes.[14] While Tacherra carried the district's portions of Merced and Madera counties, Costa defeated him in Fresno County by 9,600 votes.[15]


On June 7, 2016, Costa was the sole Democratic candidate in the 2016 "top two" primary, and was ahead on June 28, with 55.9%, 50,917 votes. He was paired once again in the general election with Republican Johnny Tacherra, who finished in second place with 33.1%, 30,342 votes.[16] In the general election, Costa prevailed with 58%, 97,473 votes, versus Tacherra's 42%, 70,483 votes.[17]


General election for U.S. House California District 16 On November 6, 2018Incumbent Jim Costa defeated the only Republican candidate, Elizabeth Heng, in the "top two" primary, 53% to 47%. He retained his seat in a Democratic "wave" in California, 57.5%, 82,266 votes, to 42.5%, 60,693 votes in the general election, for U.S. House California District 16.[18]

Political positions


Costa was one of the sponsors for 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 farm land.[19] If enacted, this act would reduce transparency by allowing the livestock industry to hide their waste storage and disposal methods. Another provision would make it easier for farmers to dump pesticides into waterways regulated under the Clean Water Act.[20]

District of Columbia rights

In May 2016, Costa was one of two Democrats who supported the unprecedented step of overturning a District of Columbia referendum.[21] The measure, passed by a vast majority of D.C. voters, would allow the District to spend its own tax dollars without congressional approval.[21]

Health care

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.[22] To gain Costa's vote, the House leadership reportedly promised Costa and Dennis Cardoza funding for a medical school for California's Central Valley.[23]

High-speed rail

Costa has been an advocate of 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 has compared rail projects to Eisenhower's highway expansion and pleaded to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and President Obama for help in with this project.[24]

In April 2008, Costa wrote a piece in Capitol Weekly calling for high-speed rail in California.[25]

Keystone XL Pipeline

In January 2015, Costa was one of the twenty-eight Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who voted in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline.[26]

Yemeni civil war

Costa was one of five house Democrats who voted for the US to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia and to support the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[27]

National cemetery burials

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.[28]

Syrian refugees

Costa voted on November 19, 2015, for HR 4038, legislation that would effectively halt the resettlement of refugees from Syria and Iraq to the United States.[29]



  1. "Members". Blue Dog Coalition. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  2. Neill, Stephanie (September 5, 1986). "Assemblyman in Prostitute Incident Issues Apology". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 5, 2015.
  3. "Members". Blue Dog Coalition. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  4. "Our Members". U.S. House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  5. "Members". New Democrat Coalition. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  6. "Members". Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  7. "Members of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus". Veterinary Medicine Caucus. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  8. "Costa Holds Seat, Keeps GOP Pickups at 63: Roll Call Politics". Rollcall.com. November 23, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  9. "Rep. Jim Costa Announces Reelection Campaign". KGPE.
  10. "Republicans Tout Redistricting Gains". National Journal. March 28, 2012. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012.
  11. "Daily Kos Elections 2008, 2012 & 2016 presidential election results for congressional districts used in 2016 elections". Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  12. "Jim Costa responds to attacks from the right, and the left". ABC News.
  13. "U.S. House: California District 16 - 2012 Election Center". CNN.
  14. "Jim Costa keeps House seat, edging out Johnny Tacherra in another late-vote rally". Fresno Bee. November 19, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  15. "California House results -- 2014 Election Center -- Elections and Politics from CNN.com". Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  16. 16 District returns Archived July 9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, California Secretary of State, June 28, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  17. California's 16th Congressional District election, Ballotpedia. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  18. California's 16th Congressional District election, Ballotpedia. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  19. "NCBA Hails Introduction of Bipartisan ACRE Act in U.S. House of Representatives". National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  20. Liebmann, Larissa. "Don't Let CAFOs Hide Their Pollution | Dive Into Democracy". Waterkeeper's Alliance. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  21. Davis, Aaron (May 25, 2016). "House Republicans take unprecedented step to upend local D.C. law". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  22. "Costa a yes". Politico. March 10, 2010.
  23. "Side deals stack up as health bills move along". The Hill. November 23, 2009.
  24. "Jim Costa". Political Profile. The Washington Post. August 21, 2012.
  25. "High speed rail: a viable transportation system for California". Capitol Weekly. Archived from the original on February 9, 2011. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
  26. Foran, Clare. "Here are the 28 House Democrats Who Voted to Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  27. Fuller, Matt; Ahmed, Akbar Shahid. "5 Democrats Bail Out Paul Ryan And Protect Saudi Arabia". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  28. Constante, Agnes (April 3, 2018). "Congress passes law allowing national cemetery burials for 'secret war' veterans". NBC News. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  29. Wire, Sarah D. "Inside the Syrian refugee vote: California representatives explain what shaped their votes". latimes.com. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  30. "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
California Assembly
Preceded by
Ken Maddy
Member of the California Assembly
from the 30th district

Succeeded by
Brian Setencich
California Senate
Preceded by
Phil Wyman
Member of the California Senate
from the 16th district

Succeeded by
Dean Florez
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Cal Dooley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 20th congressional district

Succeeded by
Sam Farr
Preceded by
Zoe Lofgren
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 16th congressional district

Party political offices
Preceded by
Kurt Schrader
Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Communications
Served alongside: Kurt Schrader (Administration), Jim Cooper (Policy)
Succeeded by
Henry Cuellar
Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Administration
Served alongside: Henry Cuellar (Communications), Dan Lipinski (Policy)
Succeeded by
Stephanie Murphy
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Conaway
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Henry Cuellar
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