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James Manuel Costa (born April 13, 1952) is a Democratic politician from the U.S.marker state of Californiamarker. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in November 2004 to represent ( map). The district takes in large and predominantly Latino portions of Fresnomarker and Bakersfieldmarker in the Central Valleymarker.

Born in Fresno, Costa is a third-generation family farmer. His grandparents emigrated from Portugalmarker's Azores Islands in the early 20th century. He attended San Joaquin Memorial High Schoolmarker and graduated in the class of 1970. After high school, he graduated in 1974 from Fresno Statemarker, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He represented part of Fresno in the state legislature for 24 years, serving in the California State Assembly from 1978 until 1994, and in the California State Senate from 1994 until 2002.

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. While Dooley endorsed his chief of staff, Lisa Quigley, as his successor, nearly all of the state Democratic establishment, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, endorsed Costa. Costa won a bruising primary and faced Republican Party state senator Roy Ashburn in November.

On paper, Costa was an overwhelming favorite. 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 (Sacramentomarker and the San Francisco Bay Areamarker in the north and Los Angelesmarker and San Diegomarker 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." Ultimately, Costa won the election by a fairly decisive margin, with 54% of the vote to Ashburn's 46%. The race wasn't even that close; Ashburn only kept it within single digits by winning heavily Republican Kings Countymarker, the only whole county in the district.

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 also a member of the House Agriculture Committee. He 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.

Like most Democrats from the Central Valley, Costa is somewhat more conservative than is typical for Democrats from California. He is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition.

Committee Assignments


  • Co-founder and Co-chair of the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus
  • Co-founder of the Congressional Water Caucus
  • Co-founder of the Congressional Organ Donation Caucus

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