A little more than two months ago, Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez was sworn in to her first term on the Kern County Board of Supervisors.
Now, she’s looking to move up to the state Senate, announcing Monday that she would run for the seat of fellow Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio, who abruptly resigned last month.
In doing so, Perez will have the backing of the Senate’s Democratic leadership team — including President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg — and some of its most influential senators.
Among them are Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, Democratic Caucus Chair Jerry Hill, and Ron Calderon, Lou Correa, Kevin De Leon, Cathleen Galgiani and Hannah-Beth Jackson. There are 18 in all.
Perez’s announcement — which was widely expected — sets up what is likely a three-way race between her, fellow Democrat Fran Florez and Hanford Republican Andy Vidak.
Others are running, but Florez, Perez and Vidak will have the name identification and/or money necessary to be competitive.
Florez, who is on the Shafter City Council and is the mother of Dean Florez, who held the Senate seat before Rubio, could be the odd person out, said Stan Harper, a Bakersfield-based Republican political consultant.
“There is no question in my mind Leticia will get more votes than Fran,” Harper said.
That would likely put Perez into a runoff against Vidak.
Florez gave some insight into her strategy when on Monday she officially announced her candidacy — in Fresno.
She said Fresno County, in terms of the number of voters, is the biggest part of the 16th Senate District. The numbers confirm that. There are more than 137,000 voters in the Fresno County portion of the 16th District. In Kern County, it is around 75,000.
The district is 50.7% Democrat and 28.6% Republican.
Fresno County also happens to be a part of the district where Florez has some name identification, either through her two unsuccessful state Assembly runs, or from Dean Florez. Perez, in the meantime, is virtually unknown in Fresno.
But Perez will likely have plenty of money to help close that name identification deficit, thanks to the Senate leadership’s backing. That support seems like a slap in the face to Dean Florez. It was Steinberg, as incoming Senate President pro Tem, who in 2008 named Florez Senate majority leader.
Perez also has a political get-out-the-vote machine inherited from Rubio — her former boss.
“Leticia will have a better ground game,” Harper said. “As much as Fran has what Dean had several years ago, Leticia has everything in place that Rubio had a year ago.”
Fresno City Council Member Blong Xiong introduced Florez, and one person standing behind her was Dave Wilson of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. He said he personally supported Florez and would work to get the UFCW behind her as well.
On the Republican side, it appears that Vidak — who in 2010 came close to ousting Fresno Democrat Jim Costa from Congress — won’t have any competition from within his own party.
It means he’ll likely do well in the May 21 primary election. He might even win. But if, as expected, none of the candidates win a majority of the votes, the top two will advance to a run-off July 23.
The special election to replace Rubio will be for the 16th Senate District as it was between 2002 and 2012. Next year, the person in the seat must run again under newly drawn boundaries. That is the 14th state Senate District. The two districts are 88% the same.