Congressman TJ Cox represents California’s 21st Congressional District. The District includes all of Kings County and portions of Fresno, Kern, and Tulare Counties. He ran unsuccessfully for the 19th District seat in 2006, but won during his second try for Congress in 2018. Rep. Cox was sworn into the 116th Congress on January 3, 2019.
What personal accomplishments are you most proud of?
My kids and my marriage. The last 26 years have been the most incredible adventure I could have imagined and brought us our four wonderful kids. I’m also extremely proud to serve in Congress’s most robust class of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, as well as part of the 13 percent of lawmakers who are immigrants or children of immigrants. This is the most diverse Congress in American history—and our race was the last one called in the 2018 election!
Tell us about your upbringing and how that plays a role in your decision to pursue politics as a career.
My upbringing had an incredible role in my decision to pursue politics. My dad came from China and my mom from the Philippines—a classic immigrant story. Growing up, they told me to work hard and take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that America gives to all people, opportunities that it gave to us, and that’s exactly what I’m doing to this day. I am pursuing politics because my family has had the incredible privilege of experiencing America as the land of opportunity. That’s one of the reasons I ran for Congress: to pass on those same opportunities to my four kids. We have an obligation to cultivate the next generation of leaders.
Tell us the difference in approach you took in the 2006 election vs. 2018 election?
In both elections, it was clear that the American public was angry with the direction of the country. I’m very proud of the team that we built last year because of the outreach that we had and the number of volunteers and voters we were able to involve in that effort. It was an incredible experience.
What motivated you to start your two nut processing businesses?
We saw a need in the community, and I stepped in to help meet that need. The Central Valley is where most of the nuts consumed in the United States come from, and I was proud of the work that we did here to grow jobs right here in the Valley.
As an agriculture committee member, what are your top priorities?
As a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture and the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research, some of my top priorities are ensuring that our producers have access to the foreign markets that they need to sell their products. Part of that is working to resolve these damaging trade wars that are taking a toll on the Central Valley. As the most agriculturally-productive district in the top agriculture state, access to clean water is imperative to our economy and critical to the health and well-being of our communities. I’m focused on shoring up our water infrastructure to meet those needs.
What is your key message to California agriculture during this legislative session?
I understand, firsthand, the importance of the agricultural industry as a driving force in California’s economy, operating two nut-processing businesses myself. I’m focused on searching for solutions to these unnecessary and damaging trade wars, and passing USMCA so that our farmers and ranchers have the stability they need to plan for the future.
I’m proud to have recently been named Vice Chair of Majority Leader Hoyer’s Rural Poverty Task Force so that I can raise to Congress the unique challenges faced by the Central Valley’s rural agriculture communities and work to develop aggressive solutions for us all. My Washington, DC and Bakersfield offices are always open, and I welcome our California farmers and ranchers to come in.