Dennis A. Cardoza (born March 31, 1959) is the U.S. Representative for California's 18th congressional district, serving since 2003. The district takes in a large swath of the Central Valley, from Stockton to Fresno. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He first won election to Congress after defeating former Congressman Gary Condit in the March 2002 Democratic Party primary election.
Cardoza was born in Merced, California, of Portuguese ancestry.
He grew up in Atwater, California and graduated from Atwater High School. He was educated at the California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock, California then transferred to University of Maryland, College Park. He is a member of Theta Chi Fraternity.
Cardoza's interest in public service began in college when he interned on Capitol Hill during the summer of 1979. The first in his family to graduate from college, Cardoza went on to run a successful small business. Cardoza served as a city council member in both Merced and Atwater and was a Member of the California State Assembly from 1996 to 2002.
During his six years in the Assembly, he chaired the Rules Committee and helped found the Moderate Democratic Caucus.
Cardoza currently represents California's 18th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat was previously held by Gary Condit. When Cardoza was starting out in politics, he served as Condit's Chief of Staff while Condit was still in the California Assembly. When Condit's career came under a cloud because of his extramarital affair with murdered intern Chandra Levy, Cardoza ran against him in the 2002 Democratic primary and won. Cardoza then faced Republican Dick Monteith in the November election. This race was considered to be the only potentially competitive House contest in California; redistricting after the 2000 census gave most of the state's 53 congresspersons safe districts. However, the Democratic-controlled state legislature had been concerned about a growing Republican trend in the 18th even before Condit's career imploded. The district and its predecessors had been in Democratic hands since 1955. The legislature shifted a Republican-leaning portion of eastern Stanislaus County to the heavily Republican 19th District. They replaced it with a mostly Democratic spur in and around Stockton, which gave the district a plurality of Latino voters. Cardoza defeated Monteith, 51 percent to 43 percent. He has been reelected four times against only nominal opposition.
Cardoza is considered a conservative Democrat by California standards, which is typical for Democrats from the Central Valley. However, his voting record is slightly more liberal than that of Condit. During the 109th Congress, Cardoza was a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate to conservative House Democrats of which Condit was a founding member. He was a member of the Resources Committee, Agriculture Committee, and International Relations Committee.
For the 112th Congress, Cardoza sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as the Agriculture Committee where he is ranking member of the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Subcommittee. He remains a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, but his co-chairmanship has been assumed by Congressman Mike Ross.
September 9th, 2011