Feb 26, 2020

It May Be High Nunes for Devin

Hmong-American Businessman Vies for Central Valley Congressional Seat

By Ed Goldman
Today’s column may seem pitched to our Fresno readership (a really nice person, by the way) but it concerns more than the Central Valley or even all of California. This is about the entire country and the chance voters (and donors) have to not only set a precedent but also to put someone in office who knows whereof he speaks when it comes to healthcare, water, immigrants and small business.

Fresno businessguy and Hmong-American activist Bobby Bliatout (Blee-AY-too) is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the very shared hope that come November, it’ll be High Nunes for Devin.

To clarify, Devin Nunes is the easily offended congressman who sues everyone in sight for libel, slander and, worst of all, truthfulness. (If I’m his next target, I’ll keep you posted. I have very deep pockets—though unfortunately, they’re filled with KitKat bar wrappers and un-twisted paper clips.)

But I digress. Bobby Bliatout has opened healthcare clinics throughout Northern California to provide care to the under- or uninsured. He’s also been a farmer (a job, he half-joked to me, “I hated. It’s really hard work, man!”). The key is that he farmed in his own county and state—I mention this because Nunes apparently has a family dairy in the Midwest and is as much a farmer as I am, though he calls himself one on his political propaganda.

What I find enjoyable about Bliatout is that he holds degrees in computer science and theatre. “I wanted to be an actor,” he told me, “but when I went to Hollywood, no one was hiring Asians.” Smiling ruefully—we had just talked about South Korea’s multiple Oscar win for “Parasite”—he said, “Uh, some things have changed.” He quickly added that long before the pendulum began to swing his way, he had decided, upon the birth of his first child, to concentrate on work that was “steadier” than acting. These days, he’s the CEO of the Greater Fresno Health Organization, which runs the Winery Medical Clinic and North Marks Medical Clinic in Fresno.

Nancy and Fred Teichert flank Fresno Congressional candidate Bobby Bliatout at a meet-and-greet in the Teichert’s Sacramento home.  Photo by Ed Goldman  

The other evening, philanthropist Fred Teichert hosted—with his wife Nancy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter—a meet-and-greet with Bliatout in their elegant East Sacramento home. He told a group of frequent political donors that the “significance of having a Hmong American presence in national politics would be huge, especially representing the Fresno-Tulare area, which is, I think, after St. Paul/Minneapolis, the second-largest home for Hmong refugees and immigrants after the Vietnam War.” (Fact check: He’s right.)

Teichert went on to point out that Bliatout would be “the only other member of Congress with experience in medical administration”—along with Sacramento area Congressman Dr. Ami Berra, who, seven years ago, built himself a relatively safe Democratic berth in a former safe harbor for Republicans. “So Bobby,” Teichert continued, “is hoping his professional expertise will be useful in crafting a practical as well as ethical healthcare policy.”

This is pretty important stuff just on the face of it—but in contrast to Devin Nunes, it’s attention-grabbing, since Nunes tells anyone who’ll listen that he opposes the Affordable Care Act. As he said on one of Fox News’s multiple “fair-and-balanced” affiliates, “… Obamacare had made healthcare worse, not better. It should be repealed and replaced with free-market reforms.” Wow. How’d that work out for his party?

If you want to learn more about the affable, plain-speaking Bliatout, and maybe even send his campaign a check, you can find info at all of these:

@BobbyBliatout on Twitter; and

As you can see, he’s all over social media. As opposed to his opponent, Devin Nunes, who’s just all over the map.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).