A month ago, Hanford Republican Andy Vidak released the results of a 16th State Senate District survey that — surprise — said he was the “clear front runner” in the race to replace Michael Rubio, who resigned in February.
Not to be outdone, Vidak’s main opponent, Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez, put out her own survey memo this week that found a tight race — but with her as “the favorite.”
These dueling memos, which always seem to be addressed to “interested parties,” are staples of campaigns and often feel like spin. After all, who knows how each question was asked? In what order? Were opposing candidates called ugly names before the key questions were posed?
No doubt there was legitimate polling done, but that isn’t always what is publicly released in these campaign memos.
Both sides in their respective memos did say that only “likely voters” were polled. Interviews were done in English and Spanish. Those with both landline and cell phones were interviewed.
Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff
Vidak’s found him up 45% to 21% over Perez when those polled were asked who they were backing in the special election. It also found him with a sizable edge in name identification. And it said 22% of those polled were undecided.
Some of the findings had the air of believability. For instance, it stands to reason that Vidak — who ran a tough 2010 congressional campaign against incumbent Jim Costa — would have a name identification edge. Perez is just four months into her first elected political office — Kern County supervisor.
It also stands to reason that Perez would close the gap. Perez’s polling found her down just four percentage points — 45% to 41%. She has a ton of money to get voters to the polls and increase her name identification in Fresno and other parts of the district were she isn’t very well known.
The key part of Perez’s claim to be the “favorite” is that she’s at 49% and Vidak 38% “after positive info” is shared.
This could mean anything, but it almost certainly means voters were asked who they supported again after all kinds of nice things were said about Perez — and, probably, some less-than-flattering things about Vidak.
What’s it all mean? Probably not much.
In a special election like this, when no other races are on the ballot and voters are barely paying attention, it all comes down to which side does a better job of getting its respective backers to actually cast ballots.
To that end, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff will be in Hanford Saturday to rally the troops to get voters to the polls. Huff will be joined by fellow Republican Senator Mimi Walters of Lake Forest.
The American Lung Association says air quality has improved in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. The ozone pollution is no longer among the 10 worst in the country. That’s a step toward reality in the Lung Association’s latest rankings.
Here’s what I mean: The last time San Luis Obispo breached the federal eight-hour standard was 2008. Meanwhile, Hanford’s ozone concentration rose above the federal standard eight times just in 2012.
As I said, this is no criticism of the Lung Association, which has a far more complex way of figuring its rankings than the number of times the ozone exceeds the standard. And San Luis Obispo has been bounced all the way down to the bottom of the list.
But it’s just weird to even be talking about improving air quality in a metropolitan area where the ozone standard is exceeded once or twice in a decade.
Rainfall in Fresno for January through April? It was a kidney stone of a four-month period. It ranks as the sixth-driest on record, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford.
It’s a relief that those four months have just about passed, but we have more than just a dry spell here. If there’s little or no rainfall between now and the end of June, this will go down as one of the 10 driest years on record for Fresno.
Those records date back to 1878.
I’ve talked with a few meteorologists who say California is in a drought, though the state has not declared one.
Paul Iniguez of the National Weather Service says: “As a meteorologist, I will say that large areas of the state are experiencing meteorological drought.”
The state had a dry year in 2011-2012. It looks like 2012-2013 — water year runs from July 1 through June 20 — will be even drier.
Fresno is a good example. It had 8.15 inches of rain last year, about 75% of average. This year, the city has 5.60 inches, about 52% of average for late April.
The snowpack was a bit of a disaster as well. It was 48% of average on April 1. The year before, it was 54% of average.
With reservoirs still close to average — with the notable exception of San Luis Reservoir in western Merced County — the impact of consecutive dry years could be much worse.
But water managers throughout California already are worrying about next winter.
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.
Local and national Democrats think a Bakersfield City School District member might make the perfect challenger for first-term congressman David Valadao, a Hanford Republican.
Andrae Gonzales is currently the board’s president pro tem. Democrats call him an “up-and-comer.” Even Bakersfield Republican political consultant Stan Harper calls him “viable” and “bright.”
The question is: Can he unseat Valadao in the 21st Congressional District?
Democrats are still unhappy that they failed to even put up a fight for the seat last November. They hold a 15-percentage-point registration advantage in the district over the rival Republicans, but Valadao thumped Fresno Democrat John Hernandez, 58% to 42%.
Despite the registration advantage for Democrats, it never looked good for them during last year’s campaign.
Hernandez never seemed to get off the ground. His campaign seemed unfocused and not nearly visible enough. It was also dogged by debt.
Democrats never wanted Hernandez in the first place. They preferred Fresno City Council Member Blong Xiong, but in the state’s new top two primary, Valadao and Hernandez finished one-two. Xiong was left on the sidelines.
Now, Hernandez says he’s running again. And Democrats once again want an alternative, said Matt Rogers, chairman of the Fresno County Young Democrats.
Rogers said he spoke with Gonzales on Thursday morning, and the 31-year-old is interested in a run against Valadao. And, Rogers said, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also reached out to Gonzales.
Gonzales was also mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Michael Rubio, who abruptly resigned from the state Senate in February. A May 21 special election is set to fill that seat.
But Gonzales isn’t the only potential candidate. Democrats are also talking to former state Sen. Dean Florez, as well as his mother Fran, a Shafter council member.
Florez might even be preferable for a Valadao challenge, because he twice won election in a Senate district that matches up well with the 21st Congressional District’s current boundaries — which takes in parts of Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties and all of Kings County.
But Rogers said nobody in Democratic Party circles thinks Dean Florez will run.
The bench isn’t very deep for Democrats, either. Another possibility was newly elected Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, but now she’s running to replace Rubio in the state Senate.
If Gonzales does run — or Dean or Fran Florez, for that matter — the next hurdle would be getting them sufficient funds to mount an effective campaign.
Rogers said Democrats want to hold on the 36th Congressional District, where Raul Ruiz upset incumbent Republican Mary Bono Mack last year. The GOP will likely target that Southern California seat next year.
There are other seats held by Democrats in the state that also must be held, Rogers said.
In the end, will there be enough cash to fund Valadao’s challenger? And, it seems, the party may also have to get that person past a primary that may include Hernandez.
On March 10 — which was just 10 short days ago — Hanford Republican Andy Vidak announced on his Facebook page that he would seek the 16th state Senate seat that came open when Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio abruptly resigned last month.
Since then, Vidak said, he’s been working the phones, seeking both support and cash.
He’s off to a good start, according to the Secretary of State’s Web site.
By March 13, records show, Vidak was already recording a string of donations.
The most recent filing was today. The total so far — close to $90,000.
To date, almost all of the cash is coming from agriculture, though Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare also chipped in $4,100 from her 2018 state Senate account.
Contributions also include $2,500 from Allbright Cotton of Fresno and $4,100 each from Madera farmer Chester Andrew and Cutler-based Golden Star Citrus.
As of this afternoon, the other candidates, including Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez and Shafter City Council Member Fran Florez — the two highest-profile Democrats — have yet record any donations, according to the Secretary of State’s Web site.
In the meantime, the list of people who have at least pulled campaign papers — the first step toward a run for the seat — has grown to seven.
Besides Florez, Perez and Vidak, other candidates who already had pulled papers included Fresno resident John Estrada and Francisco Ramirez Jr.
They are now joined by Jerry Armendariz and Arif Mohammad, who have unknown hometowns and list no ballot designation.
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.
Chevron Energy Solutions designed and installed a new solar-power system at Hanford’s wastewater treatment plant.
Hanford is dedicating a new solar power system on Tuesday that is expected to save the city millions of dollars in electricity costs at its wastewater treatment plant in the coming years.
Chevron Energy Solutions designed and installed the 1-megawatt system, which has solar panels mounted at ground level. Chevron will also operate and maintain the photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity.
A megawatt, by the way, is one million watts. A 1-megawatt plant can produce enough power to meet the electricity needs of about 300 homes.
The city expects that solar power will reduce its electricity purchases by about 50% at the treatment plant — about $7 million over the life of the system.
Mayor Sue Sorensen said in a written statement that Hanford’s future “is brighter because of this project and the vision of sustainability that it helps fulfill.”
In September, Chevron Energy Solutions and Kings County announced the completion of a three-stage, eight-year program of energy efficiency improvements and solar-power construction at county buildings in Hanford, Armona, Corcoran, Kettleman City, Lemoore, Stratford and two county parks. The solar component of the program included putting solar panels on parking shade structures at the Kings County Government Center in Hanford and the county library in downtown Hanford.
In city after city across the central San Joaquin Valley, President Barack Obama has attracted more donors for his reelection campaign than his challenger, Republican Mitt Romney.
But when it comes to the local cash haul, Romney rules.
Take Fresno, for instance. Obama had 2,214 donors with Fresno mailing addresses, while Romney had just 696. But those 696 donors gave Romney $438,050, while Obama’s more than 2,200 contributed $223,716.
The average per donor? It is $629.38 for Romney, and just $101 for Obama.
Across the region, it is similar story — Exeter, Visalia, Kingsburg, Hanford, Madera, Merced mailing addresses all show more Obama donors, but more total money for Romney.
It even holds true in a Republican stronghold like Clovis, where Obama had 455 donors to Romney’s 259, but Romney raised $135,107 to Obama’s $42,700.
Given Romney’s local high-dollar fundraisers, this is hardly surprising. The biggest of them all came in May, when Romney raked in more than $1 million at a fundraiser at the Sanger-area home of prominent west-side rancher John Harris and his wife, Carole.
Obama, by comparison, has never held a Valley fundraiser. All his campaign donations came from local people who took the initiative and sent in a check. The only exception would have been if a local wealthy Democrat attended one of Obama’s Los Angeles or Bay Area fundraisers.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee weighed in on the 21st Congressional District race for the first time.
The DCCC said it was doing a robocall on behalf of Democrat John Hernandez. The gist of the call: Vote for Hernandez because he would be the first Mexican American congressman from the district, where two-thirds of the voting-age population is Hispanic.
Here’s part of the script, which features “Maria from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.” The call says Hernandez, “unlike his Republican opponent” David Valadao, “supports the DREAM Act,” which would allow illegal immigrants under 30 who entered the U.S. before age 16 and have lived here for five years without committing a serious crime to be eligible for legal residency.
The evidence continues to mount that Hanford Republican David Valadao won’t roll to an easy win over Fresno Democrat John Hernandez in the newly drawn 21st Congressional District.
A few weeks ago, that was the assumption. The race, just about everyone thought, was a done deal. Hardly anyone was paying attention.
Then came an article in the National Journal — a nonpartisan magazine that covers national politics and policy — that quoted a Republican saying private polling was moving “the wrong way” for Valadao.
On Friday, a group known as Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies said it had put together a television ad attacking Hernandez, and was spending more than $600,000 to buy air time.
Now, political watchers from the Valley to Washington D.C. are wondering if the race is truly competitive, or if Valadao just needs to shore up his lead.
“I think Republicans are worried that if Valadao doesn’t define himself, the person with the Hispanic surname may have an actual advantage,” says Kyle Kondik, communications director at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, which tracks federal races.
Like so many other political prognosticators, the Center for Politics’ Crystal Ball e-magazine long ago stopped considering the race competitive. But now Kondik says it “may be moving back on to the table,” though still rated as “likely Republican.”
Among Hernandez’s advantages are a nearly 15-percentage-point voter registration advantage, and a huge Hispanic electorate. Hernandez has vowed to get those voters to the polls.
In addition, President Barack Obama won the district in 2008, and Gov. Jerry Brown did as well in 2010.
But Hernandez’s disadvantages are huge. For starters, he really doesn’t have any money. He raised just $53,000 between July 1 and September 30, has just $17,700 in his account — and $40,000 in unpaid bills. His campaign has constantly been in debt.
In addition, while the Republicans seem to be pushing the panic button, Hernandez’s own Democratic Party — or any of its political allies — isn’t helping with any money at all.
This comes at the same time it is pouring hundreds of thousands into a Stanislaus County-based congressional race involving another Hernandez — former astronaut Jose Hernandez, a Democrat who is challenging incumbent Republican Jeff Denham in what is shaping up to be a very close race.
Valadao, in the meantime, has almost $800,000 in his account, and he plans to run television commercials through the November 6 general election. Coupled with more than $600,000 in ads from Crossroads GPS, and that adds up to a double-barreled onslaught of anti-Hernandez and pro-Valadao campaign advertising.
The Valadao campaign is also touting an internal poll that shows him with a 20-percentage-point lead — 53% to 33% — and 14% saying either they are undecided or will vote for neither. However, it is unknown how the questions on the race were asked.
In some ways, the Hernandez-Valadao clash has similarities to the 2010 race between incumbent Democrat Jim Costa and Republican challenger Andy Vidak.
That race was largely quiet — until mid-September. In the final seven weeks, Vidak went toe-to-toe with Costa in what turned out to be a very competitive race.
The common thread is the territory. Costa’s district at that time was largely the same as the area that is now part of the 21st District.
Costa is now gone, thanks to a redistricting that put him in a new district that runs from Fresno to the north. But could history be repeating itself in a chunk of his old westside Valley stamping grounds?