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HANFORD — John Hernandez, CEO of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, will run for Congress in 2012 against David Valadao.

Hernandez, who lives in Fresno, made the announcement this week that he’ll take on Valadao, a first-term Republican assemblyman from Hanford.

Hernandez admits he has some catching up to do.

Valadao launched his campaign in August and has already built up a substantial war chest. Valadao staff members say t latest federal campaign finance reports will show he has raised $408,000 and has cash on hand of $386,000.

Hernandez is starting with $20,000 of his own seed money. He’s courting the Democratic National Congressional Committee, but hasn’t received any commitments yet.

“We need to make up some ground here,” he said. “I’m willing to start off with a large investment of my own capital.”

The only reason the 21st Congressional District seat is up for grabs is that redistricting moved Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, into a new district stretching north from Fresno into Madera and Merced counties.

Many thought state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, would run against Valadao, but Rubio officially pulled out in December because of family issues. Hernandez said he is seeking endorsements from Costa and Rubio.

Hernandez calls himself a “pro small-business candidate.” Unlike Valadao, he is a strong supporter of high-speed rail.

“This race is going to be about the future of the San Joaquin Valley,” he said.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2432 or snidever@HanfordSentinel.com.

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