Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Is Perez’s Fresno visit part of any plan for a Vidak Senate rematch?

All five Fresno County supervisors were on hand this week for board Chair Henry R. Perea’s state-of-the county breakfast speech.

Interestingly, another supervisor was present — Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez.

Leticia Perez

So what brought the Bakersfield Democrat 110 miles to the north?
There was some speculation that she’s already gearing up for a second state Senate battle against Hanford Republican Andy Vidak.

Earlier this year, Vidak beat Perez in the battle to fill the 16th District state Senate seat vacated by Michael Rubio.

But Vidak is only filling Rubio’s current term, which is up next year. So he’ll immediately face a re-election battle, only in the newly created 14th state Senate district.

“We would love to see her run again in 2014,” Fresno County Young Democrats Chairman Matt Rogers said.

A few other names have been rumored, but so far nobody has stepped forward and Perez is still the most prominent potential Vidak challenger.

But Perez said her visit had nothing to do with campaigning or exploring a Vidak rematch. When asked why she was in Fresno, Perez replied: “Visiting the city I have fallen in love with and reconnecting with old friends.”

Updated 16th District Senate vote counts solidify Vidak win

It’s now safe to call Andy Vidak “senator-elect.”

The Hanford Republican’s lead over Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez in the 16th District state Senate special election has dwindled considerably since Election Day.

But there aren’t enough ballots left to count for Perez to catch Vidak — even if she won every single vote.

Andy Vidak

When the count was finished late Tuesday, Vidak held a 5,833-vote edge. By Friday afternoon, when Fresno County updated its count, Vidak’s lead over Perez had dwindled to 3,516.

It means Perez picked up more than 2,300 votes in late counting.

But Fresno County only has around 870 votes left to count — about 750 provisional ballots and 120 challenged ballots. That’s not enough to pull Perez even close to snatching victory away from Vidak.

Friday’s count, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, had Vidak at 52.2% and Perez at 47.8%. Vidak’s lead: 4.4 percentage points.

The two candidates faced each other in a runoff after finishing one-two in the five-person May primary. The 16th District seat came open after Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio resigned to take a job with Chevron Corp.

It became a heated, high-profile showdown because Senate Democrats are fighting to retain a two-thirds majority in the chamber.

Leticia Perez

Millions of dollars poured into the race, which even caught the attention of major national publications such as the New York Times.

The race — or, more specifically, Perez — made an appearance on Comedy Central’s satirical news program, the Daily Show. In a segment featuring Perez, she adamantly rules out a congressional run.

In May, Vidak was initially above 50% of the vote and appeared on his way to staying above that threshold and winning the race outright. People began calling him “senator-elect.” Then, in late vote counts, he fell below 50%, forcing the runoff.

Outside money rolls in for Fresno-Bakersfield Senate runoff

Republican state Senate candidate Andy Vidak got a $161,500 boost to his campaign last week from the California Association of Realtors.

And it comes at just the right time.

Both Vidak, of Hanford, and his Democratic opponent Leticia Perez have been slow to raise funds since they both advanced in the May 21 primary for the Fresno-Bakersfield area 16th Senate District. This week voters begin casting mail ballots for the July 23 runoff.

The California Association of Realtors, a trade group, recorded the $161,500 expense Friday as an independent expenditure, meaning the money won’t go directly to Vidak but will be spent on radio, television and online advertising on his behalf.

Perez, of Bakersfield, got a welcome influx of support last week, too: a $92,141 independent expenditure from Californians for Good Schools & Good Jobs.

According to the latest campaign finance report, Vidak had $83,000 in his campaign coffers as of June 8. He’s raised more than a million dollars for the special election. Perez had $61,000, also having raised more than a million dollars.

The two are vying to replace former Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio, who resigned in February.

Vidak nearly won the seat outright in last month’s primary, coming up just short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Dueling memos tout front runners in 16th Senate race

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.

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.

Senate hopeful Perez stumps in Fresno, picks up more support

State Senate candidate Leticia Perez continues to pick up key support in the Fresno area, the most populous part of the 16th Senate District — and where she’s far less known than in her hometown of Bakersfield.

A number of small city mayors in Fresno County announced their endorsement of the Kern County Democrat at a press event in downtown Fresno today, including Parlier Mayor Armando Lopez, Fowler Mayor David Cardenas and Mendota Mayor Robert Silva.

State Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, and Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle also officially jumped on her campaign train.

Perez is the top Democrat in what’s essentially a two-person race for the seat vacated by Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio. Hanford Republican Andy Vidak is also in the running. The special election is May 21.

Perez picked the bipartisan issue of water to discuss this afternoon, pledging to ensure adequate supplies for Valley farmers and posing for photos with her supporters in front of an irrigation canal.

Kerman Mayor Yep, a Republican, says he won’t seek 16th Senate seat

It’s probably not much of a surprise, but Kerman Mayor Gary Yep won’t run in the 16th state Senate district special election to fill the seat vacated by Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio.

Yep, a Republican, sent out a statement today saying the main reason for his decision is that he won’t live in the Senate district as it is drawn for the coming decade.

The district that selects Rubio’s replacement will be Senate District 16 as it was between 2002 and 2012. Kerman — and Yep’s home — is in that district.

Gary Yep

But the winner of this year’s special election would face a re-election next year under the district’s new lines — Senate District 14.

The two districts are 88% the same, but Yep’s home is in that 12% that is moving to a new state Senate district. Kerman will move to the district now represented by Ceres Republican Anthony Cannella.

“I have no intention to move from Kerman, a place where I was born and raised,” Yep said in his statement. “More importantly I considered the impact on my young family.”

Yep had openly pondered a run for a few weeks, but then earlier this week offered up a twist: If he ran, he said, it would only be in the May 21 special election. He would not seek re-election next year.

In essence, Yep was offered himself up as a temporary seat-filler until next year, when the Republicans could conceivably find another candidate. That could be former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, who balked at running this year, but said he might next year.

Yep’s offer, however, came well after Hanford Republican Andy Vidak said he was all-in for the race, and right now it appears as if he’ll be the lone Republican in the field, possibly facing as many as four Democrats — two of them fairly well known — and another from the Peace and Freedom Party.

As Yep departs the race, he’s throwing his support to Vidak.

“Given the chaos created by Senator Rubio’s departure, I have no reservations in supporting Andy Vidak for the 16th State Senate District seat,” Yep wrote. “Mr. Vidak understands that while we may all disagree from time to time, the number one issue for the Central Valley is water; jobs grow where water flows.”

Vidak, off to quick Senate fundraising start, nets $90k in 10 days

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.

Andy Vidak

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.

Perez, with big-name backing, rounds out 16th Senate front runners

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.

Leticia Perez

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.

Fran Florez

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.

Andy Vidak

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.