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The Democratic legislator will face the Republican businessman on the battlefield of the Central Valley.

A Democratic state assemblyman, Adam C. Gray, and a Republican businessman, John Duarte, are heading into a November congressional race in a Central Valley region that leans Democratic but remains a perennial California battleground.

On Wednesday, The Associated Press rated the top two spots in the 13th Congressional District for Mr. Gray and Mr. Duarte, after the June 8 primary election.

The newly redrewd district will most likely be fiercely contested, as Republicans see the vacant seat as one of their best chances to make up ground in the state.

Mr. Duarte, who is president of his family nursery, has also made access to water for farmers a centerpiece of his campaign. He has been harnessed as a “young gun” rising star for the national Republican Party.

Although California remains by far the most populous state in the country, it lost a House seat in the most recent round of redistricting because population growth has slowed to record lows amid a housing crisis and a slow flow of immigrants.

Last year’s decennial redistricting, tied to the US census, had a mixed effect on California politics, sending many lawmakers seeking friendlier districts and leaving some seats, including the 13th Congressional District, unincumbent. .

Representative Josh Harder, the Democrat representing the area, decided to run in a nearby district surrounding Stockton after longtime Democratic congressman Jerry McNerney said he would not run again.

The 13th Congressional District, which encompasses Merced County in California’s agricultural heartland, is majority Latino and voted for President Biden in 2020 by a significant margin. But the Central Valley has historically been one of the most conservative regions in the state: It’s home to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former Rep. Devin Nunes, a close associate of former President Donald J. Trump.

Phil Arballo, a Democrat, in 2020 challenged Nunes, who held his seat for nearly two decades before resigning from Congress to run the former president’s media company. Although Mr. Arballo lost, the race was competitive.

He was hoping to build on that momentum in a bid for the newly raffled open seat. But Mr. Arballo was a distant third.

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