Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Republican George Radanovich weighs gubernatorial bid

With former Lt. Gov Abel Maldonado’s gubernatorial bid foundering, another Republican candidate is dipping his toe in the 2014 race.

Former Republican congressman George Radanovich announced that he is mulling a run with an email Thursday touting a “program of rebuilding the private sector and then cutting government.”

“I believe Californians are ready for change and the time is ripe for a new approach,” Radanovich said in the email. “That is why I am considering entering the race for governor of California.”

Gov. Jerry Brown appears so far to be in prime position to win a second term. A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll gave the governor an overall approval rating of 49 percent among likely voters. Though a mere 23 percent of Republicans approved of the job he’s doing, 65 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents backed him.

The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert has the full story.

New Super-PAC to help Central Valley GOP congressmen

Former Republican Congressman Richard Pombo is heading up a newly formed Super PAC, which will focus on electing — or keeping in office — Central Valley-based Republican and conservative congressmen.

The federal political action committee will be known as Empower Central Valley. Pombo is the chairman — and its public face. As with so many other such independent organizations, everyone else — including donors — will remain anonymous.

Richard Pombo

But Pombo, a Tracy cattle rancher, did say that “ag interests are all gearing up to get involved.” He said many contribute significant amounts of money to Republican causes and committees, but the money ends up being sent to out-of-state candidates.

“With other PACs, very little is spent in California,” Pombo said. “They raise money here, but spend it in Ohio.”

Empower Central Valley, he said, will spend its money in the Valley.

The first order of business is ensuring that Hanford Republican David Valadao in the 21st District and Turlock Republican Jeff Denham in the 10th District hold on to their respective congressional seats. The two have earned the PAC’s initial endorsements.

Both will almost certainly be Democratic Party targets next year. Beyond that, the PAC will look to get involved in other Valley races that may be competitive, be they working to keep a Central Valley Republican in office or hoping to oust a rival Democrat.

The PAC’s initial budget, based on the current targeted seats, is $1.2 million, Pombo said.

“We can expand, based on need,” he added.

The PAC is, by law, independent of the candidates it supports.

It is permitted to raise unlimited funds and in turn advocate for the election of federal candidates.

Fresno Co. GOP Facebook page used to attack Amaral

This may be the last word on the ugly, profanity-laced email exchange between Mark Borba, a west-side grower, and Johnny Amaral, chief of staff for Rep. Devin Nunes, a Tulare Republican.

The email chain is best known for one sent from Borba to Westlands Water District General Manager Tom Birmingham that included a racially insensitive comment about President Barack Obama. That resulted in Borba stepping down as Community Medical Centers’ board chair.

But it seems a Republican who had access to the Fresno County GOP’s Facebook page was unhappy with Amaral’s comments.

Not long after the April exchange, someone wrote on the Fresno County GOP Facebook page that Amaral’s emails were unacceptable and he should resign from Nunes’ staff.

The comment — which wasn’t authorized or the official position of Fresno County’s Republican Party — might have been quickly erased and largely gone unnoticed. But there was a problem: local party leaders couldn’t take it down because they lacked administrator privileges on the Facebook page.

So it stayed up — for a long time — while Fresno County Republican Central Committee Chair Sandra Lakeman tried to get the administrator privileges changed.

Lakeman is the newly elected chair, and the leadership team of the Fresno County GOP changed as well. Things such as Facebook were never updated. Someone, or likely several people, from a past regime held those administrator privileges.

Two weeks later — after Lakeman had to prove to Facebook officials that she was the duly elected head of the Fresno County GOP — she was given administrator privileges and was able to take the post down.

She replaced it with an apology:

“The statement posted April 10th regarding the Chief of Staff, Johnny Amaral and Congressman Devin Nunes, was not an authorized message by the Fresno Country Republican Party. The Fresno County Republican Party values our working relationship with our Republican Party election officials. This was a malicious attack against these individuals.”

Amaral said he believes the current Fresno Republican leadership had no role in the comment, and actually finds the whole thing funny.

“I talked to Sandra and others at the Fresno County GOP, and I take them at their word,” he said. “No harm, no foul, in my opinion. We all got a good laugh out of it.”

Voting starts in 16th State Senate District battle to replace Rubio

Let the 16th State Senate District voting begin!

Monday was the first day voters living in the district could cast ballots for the May 21 special election to fill the seat of Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio, who unexpectedly resigned in February to take a job with the Chevron Corp.

Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth said her office mailed out absentee ballots on Monday to 16th District voters who live in the county. Clerks in Tulare, Kern and Kings did the same.

But starting Monday at 8:30 a.m., Orth’s office was also open to anybody registered to vote in the district who couldn’t wait a moment longer to cast their ballot. And, Orth said, a few did just that.

There are five candidates seeking the seat: Peace and Freedom Party candidate Mohammad Arif of Bakersfield, Fresno Democrat Paulina Miranda, Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez, Riverdale Democrat Francisco Ramirez Jr. and Hanford Republican Andy Vidak.

If none of the candidates gets 50% of the votes, plus one, in the May 21 election, the top two vote-getters will face off in a July 23 runoff.

The district favors a Democrat, but Republicans say they like their chances because special elections typically have low turnouts, which often favors the GOP.

Political Data Inc., which collects voter information, said registration in the district was 50.7% Democratic and 28.6% Republican as of Feb. 22.

But that support is not spread even across the district.

For instance, in Fresno County Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 30,000 registered voters.

But in Kings County, Republicans outnumber Democrats, though only by a few thousand. In Tulare County, Democrats outnumber Republicans, but not by much. Kern County is another Democratic stronghold.

Still, it is clear that any winning strategy must center on Fresno County. Though it is at the district’s northern end, Fresno County has, at slightly more than 48%, the largest number of voters in the district.

Political Data has also collected some other interesting information.
For instance, almost 60% of registered voters have an average income below $50,000, and less than 1% are above $100,000.

The City of Fresno has, by far, the most voters — 25.9% of the district’s total. Next is unincorporated Kern County at 8.5% and Bakersfield and Hanford, each with 7.8% of the voters.

Tulare Assembly Member Conway holds Staples Center fundraiser

Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare has close to two years left in the Assembly, but that isn’t stopping her from looking at what could be her next political step.

And it is a step that is far, far down the line.

Conway is holding a $2,500 per person fundraiser tonight at the swanky Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. She has rented a suite for the Lakers basketball game versus the Memphis Grizzlies.

The money is for her 2018 state Senate account — though she’s nowhere near making any sort of commitment to an actual run.

“Her main focus is here in the Assembly, and that has not changed,” spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart said.

In fact, it isn’t even known if she’ll run.

Conway is termed out of the Assembly at the end of next year, but she now lives in the state Senate district of fellow Republican Jean Fuller of Bakersfield.

There’s no way Conway will challenge Fuller, and Fuller doesn’t term out of office until 2018.

This year, Conway will turn 63.

She could opt to retire and use the money to help other candidates or causes.

Fresno’s Valdez easily elected as state Republican Party’s new region vice chair

SACRAMENTO — Fresno insurance agent Marcelino Valdez rolled to an easy election win this morning in his campaign to be the California Republican Party’s next Central Valley Region vice chair.

Valdez, 33, was unopposed for the post after his long challenger, Sacramento County’s Ruth Crone, dropped out of the race weeks ago. But under the state GOP rules, a challenger could have stepped forward right up until 9 this morning, and as delegates gathered in a conference room at the Sacramento Convention Center, Valdez’s people kept handing out campaign stickers and keeping an eye out for any possible 11th-hour challengers.

None came.

it made for short work at the meeting, and Valdez soon found himself making a quick acceptance speech. It was all done in about 20 minutes.

Leading up to the vote, Valdez had continued to campaign, putting up signs, handing out stickers and meeting with delegates.

Valdez replaces Kings County Republican Central Committee Chair Prudence Eiland, who decided not to seek re-election.

Now, Valdez says, the hard work begins.

He plans to start by visiting each of the 11 county Republican central committees. Those counties are Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Tuolumne, Merced, Tulare, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Sacramento. Valdez plans to do a “needs assessment” to find out what the county party’s need to help them succeed in next year’s election.

Valdez’s message: “I need to find out your challenges. How can I help you?”

He expects the feedback to surround technology needs, getting out the vote and ethnic outreach.

Job two is getting those who are registered to actually vote on Election Day. And job three is giving the county parties fundraising help, likely through shared strategies on what has worked elsewhere.

Finally, Valdez says he’ll take the concerns of the county party to the state Republican Party. He feels the state party should work to assist the counties, and not the other way around.

This is especially important, he says, in the San Joaquin Valley.

“Our Valley sometimes feels like your voice isn’t being heard,” Valdez says.

 

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Choose from the most used tags“Our Valley feels sometimes like our voice isn’t being heard,” he says.

 

Fresno resident Valdez looks to be state GOP’s next region vice chair

Fresno resident Marcelino Valdez appears all but certain to be the California Republican Party’s next Central Valley Region vice chair. After all, he’s running unopposed.

Still, the 33-year-old insurance agent is taking no chances.

“I’m running like I have an opponent,” Valdez says. “I want to make sure I earn everybody’s support, or at least talk to them to let them know who I am.”

Valdez’s lone announced opponent, Ruth Crone, dropped out of the race.

Marcelino Valdez

Crone, who lives in Sacramento County, had the support of outgoing central region vice chair Prudence Eiland, who lives in Hanford. It could have been an interesting race.

But Valdez points out that an opponent can emerge at any time, right up until the vote is scheduled at next week’s state Republican convention in Sacramento. Voting is slated for the morning of March 2.

As such, Valdez is running a campaign that looks very much like one for public office. He’s got a fancy campaign logo, a Facebook page, and is releasing endorsements, not all at once, but at a steady clip.

Among those backing his campaign are Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Assembly Member (and former mayor) Jim Patterson, congressmen David Valadao, R-Hanford, and Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, and Tulare County Republican activist Laura Gadke, a former central region vice chair.

Valdez — who lost a 2010  Fresno City Council bid to Clint Olivier — is the kind of Republican that many in the party say they want to highlight. He’s Hispanic. He didn’t even learn to speak English until he was six or seven years old. He’s a self-employed insurance agent.

Eiland said he “fits that mold” of a successful minority — especially Hispanic — who has chosen to be a Republican.

Valdez grew up in Kerman in a non-political household, but as an 18-year-old, worked with conservatives and found he shared their political values and perspectives. He registered as a Republican.

He’s been heavily involved in the local Republican political scene since 2008, but decided to seek the vice-chair position after the state GOP got another drubbing in last November’s election.

“I was very depressed after the November election,” Valdez says. “We’d just given the two-thirds majority (in the state Assembly and state Senate) to the Democrats. I believe in the balance of power. There has to be some balance there.”

Around Christmas, he found out that as a regional vice chair, he could have influence over party issues he feels are important — registering more Republican voters is tops, but also raising money and recruiting quality candidates.

He decided to run.

As for Eiland, the longtime Kings County GOP activist will stay active has head of the county party, but the job of a region vice chair was too much.

The GOP’s Central Valley region covers 11 counties from Kern to Sacramento.

“I had to ride both horses the last two years, and it wore me out,” she says. “It’s more than I want to handle at this time.”