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Dennis A. Cardoza (born March 31, 1959) is an Americanmarker politician who has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 2003, representing the 18th District of Californiamarker. He defeated his former boss, Congressman Gary Condit, in the March 2002 Democratic Party primary election. Cardoza is a Blue Dog Democrat.

Early life

Cardoza was born in Merced, Californiamarker, of Portuguesemarker ancestry. He grew up in Atwater, Californiamarker and graduated from Atwater High School. He was educated at the California State University, Stanislausmarker in Turlock, Californiamarker then transferred to University of Maryland, College Parkmarker. He is a member of Theta Chi Fraternity.

Political career

Cardoza served as a city council member in both Mercedmarker and Atwatermarker and was a Member of the California State Assembly from 1996 to 2002 before entering the U.S. House of Representatives by winning the seat of Congressman Gary Condit, Cardoza's early mentor.

Cardoza and Condit have a long-standing relationship. When he was starting out in politics, Cardoza had been Condit's Chief of Staff while Condit was still in the California Assembly. Condit's son, Chad, eventually worked as an aide to Cardoza in the California Assembly. Condit's sister, Dovie Wilson, was Cardoza's office manager in October 2001. Chad’s wife, Helen, worked as a paid fundraiser for Cardoza in 2000, and another Condit relative described by the press as an "in-law," Jamie L. Filice, worked for Cardoza as a senior field representative in the same time period.

When Condit's career came under a cloud because of his extramarital affair with murdered intern Chandra Levy, Cardoza, who had promised to never run against Condit, ran against him in the 2002 Democratic primary and won. Condit had asked Cardoza, who was due to be termed out of the State Assembly, to run for the State Senate instead.

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 congressmen 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 Stocktonmarker, which gave the district a plurality of Latino voters. Largely due to this remap, Cardoza defeated Monteith, 51 percent to 43 percent. He has been reelected three times against only nominal opposition.

Cardoza is considered a conservative Democrat by California standards (though his voting record is slightly more liberal than that of Condit). This is typical for Democrats from the Central Valley. 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 110th Congress, Cardoza sits on the House Committee on Rules as well as the Agriculture Committee where he chairs the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture. He remains a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, but his co-chairmanship has been assumed by Congressman Mike Ross.

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