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Politics

Congressional Candidate Chris Mathys Faces Scrutiny for Helping Convicted Rapist Back onto Streets

The former Fresno Councilman and candidate for CA CD-22 remains quiet about his controversial agreement with a twice-convicted rapist.

The race for California’s 22nd Congressional District, represented by Rep. David Valadao (R), is shaping up to be one of the most closely watched and hotly-contested battles in the upcoming elections. According to Politico, the District “is one of the key targets for Democrats looking to win back the House,” citing the House Democrats’ use of “TV advertising backing the leading Democrat” and their “unusual decision to wade into a jungle primary to avoid getting locked out of the November runoff.”

In addition to his Democrat opponent, Rep. Valadao also faces a Republican challenger: former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys. This will be Mathys’ second attempt to unseat Rep. Valadao, having lost to the Congressman in the 2022 primary election.

Mathys’ risky gambit relies on whether or not he can sufficiently split the Republican vote and end up with a larger half than Rep. Valadao. However, this could be an insurmountable challenge for Mathys, as a controversy surrounding his role in helping a convicted rapist, Lonnie West, who went on to harm more victims after being helped by Mathys, has recently come to light.

West was twice-convicted for raping two women at knifepoint, first in 1975 and again in 1983. In 1999, a state appeals court reluctantly ruled West be freed because of a loophole in the law that was closed three years prior. Upon his release, neighbors protested outside his family’s Fresno home amid concerns that he had the potential to strike again. 

Then-Councilmember Mathys struck a deal with West. The agreement, which was not legally binding, asked West to enter an undisclosed ‘transitional home’ and not return to Fresno for one year. Mathys also arranged for a non-profit group to provide West with 24-hour care and counseling. According to a Fresno Bee article at the time, the news of the agreement bristled community members and Mathys’ colleagues on the City Council.

“This is the best solution for the community and for Lonnie,” Mathys said.

Only one year later, in 2000, West faced allegations of using a gun to threaten, kidnap, and molest a young girl near Fresno High School. The following year, he pleaded guilty to charges that he accosted two girls aged 12 and 14, and was sentenced to two years in Fresno County Jail. When he got out in 2002, he broke into another home and assaulted yet another girl.

Mathys has remained decidedly silent on the controversy and has yet to comment on whether or not he regrets having assisted a violent rapist. Despite the controversial agreement they reached in late 1999, West promptly came back to the community and victimized at least four more young women in Fresno. In the absence of a clear and forthright response, Mathys may find it exceedingly difficult to secure the support needed for a successful Congressional bid.

Though he aims to position himself as a more conservative alternative to Rep. Valadao, Mathys was the beneficiary of $110,919 from former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Super PAC. And despite his ardent support of former President Trump, “extending so far as to travel to the former President’s retreat at Mar-a-Lago in hopes of meeting with the President,” Trump would not endorse Mathys in either of his recent races.

Rep. Valadao has emerged victorious once before against a simultaneous affront from both a Democrat opponent and a Pelosi-funded Mathys. It remains to be seen whether or not Mathys can muster up enough support beyond his far-right base— but his history with Lonnie West and the grim reality of what ensued casts a dark shadow on his electoral prospects.

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