Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Patterson holding Fresno fundraiser to help close campaign deficit

Newly minted Assembly Member Jim Patterson is holding his first Fresno fundraiser since winning election last November.

It looks like the Fresno Republican needs it.

Campaign finance reports that run through the end of last year show Patterson with around $8,300 in his coffers — and nearly $76,000 in debt.

Patterson, Fresno’s former mayor, already may have hosted some fundraisers in Sacramento, but if not and this is his first, more will almost certainly have to follow to close that budget deficit.

Entry to the event, scheduled for Pardini’s, is $250. However, there are $500, $1,000 and $2,000 donor levels, or the maximum donation of $4,100 to be a sponsor.

Patterson no doubt would accept any amount between that low and high.
Sponsors listed on the invitation include west-side rancher John Harris (who is in China with Gov. Jerry Brown and certainly won’t attend), Granville Homes President Darius Assemi and Fresno businessman Ed Donaghy’s Donaghy Sales.

Also listed is the Fresno Police Officers Association Political Action Committee.
It seems the FPOA has gotten over its anger at Patterson over the smaller raises he sought for officers as he left the mayor’s office at the end of 2000. Either that or the union is trying to make up to Patterson for endorsing Clovis Council Member Bob Whalen, Patterson’s fellow Republican, in last year’s campaign.

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.

Three prominent Valley Republicans will join Brown on China trip

Three high-profile central San Joaquin Valley Republicans will be among 75 state leaders who will head to China next week with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

John Harris, a prominent west-side rancher who is Harris Farms CEO and chairman, will head to the Far East along with Don Peracchi, another west-side grower who is chairman of the Westlands Water District board, and Pete Weber, a leader in California Forward and co-chair of California Friends of the San Joaquin Valley.

Harris, who noted that everyone is paying their own way, said he was “thrilled to be invited.”

“The purpose of the trip is to build and strengthen California’s trade with China,” Harris said.  “Agricultural trade is an important ingredient.  Almost everything we produce here has China as a potential customer. I am a big free trader and I feel that any better access we have to China is a plus.”

As for teaming up with Brown, who is a Democrat, Harris offered high praise for the governor.

“I have known Jerry over the last 35 years or so, and he is definitely the key right now to turning California around, which he is working really hard on doing,” Harris said. “He is leading the water efforts. I don’t think we are all that far apart on most issues.”

Peracchi and Weber couldn’t be reached for comment.

Brown will meet with Chinese government and business leaders and open a new California foreign trade and investment office. The trade mission will include stops in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

It will be from Wednesday, April 10, through Tuesday, April 16.

The delegation joining Brown was organized not by the Brown administration, but by the Bay Area Council, a nonprofit economic advocacy group.

Besides Harris, Peracchi and Weber, the group includes business, economic development, investment and policy leaders from around the state.

Several administration officials will also go along, including California High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard.

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.

Autry decides against running for Rubio’s Senate seat this year, but may run in 2014

After thinking it over for a day, former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry has decided not to seek the state Senate seat vacated by Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio.

Autry, 60, said he is too busy right now between television shows and working on a mentoring program for troubled youths that he started six months ago.

But, he said in an interview today, his decision applies only to the May 21 special election that will temporarily fill the seat that came open when Rubio abruptly resigned on Feb. 22. Whoever wins that contest must stand for re-election next year – when Rubio’s term would have been up – and Autry said he will give serious consideration to running then.

“In 2014 I will take a serious look at this because I do want to help the state,” Autry said.

Autry, a Republican, said he had been approached by state Senate GOP leaders who told him their polling showed he could win the seat, even though the district is solidly Democratic.

Senate leaders were hoping Autry would run in the special election, which would be for the 16th Senate District as it was between 2002 and 2012. Political Data Inc., which collects voter information, said registration in the district was 50.7% Democratic and 28.6% Republican as of Feb. 22.

Because turnout is typically low in special elections, Republicans feel they have a good chance to take the district away from the Democrats.

But 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, but Republicans say it would be tougher for them to take the seat because it would be a general election.

GOP leaders felt Autry, well known locally because of his Hollywood career and two terms of Fresno’s mayor, was the best person to win both this year and next.

On Friday, Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, former Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines and state Sen. Tom Berryhill made their pitch to Autry at a north Fresno Starbucks.

Autry said going into the meeting he was leaning against running, but Huff, Villines and Berryhill made some good points. He said he would think it over.

Word of Autry’s potential run sent local Republican leaders into opposite camps.

Former Fresno City Council Member Jerry Duncan, for instance, enthusiastically backed Autry and said he would make a great senator. But businessman Tal Cloud took the opposite viewpoint, and even authored a memo on Fresno’s borrowing during Autry’s mayoral terms. His conclusion: the city’s current financial troubles rest right at Autry’s feet.

Autry has kept mostly a low profile since leaving the mayor’s office. He hosted a weekday talk radio show for a little more than two years, leaving the air in December 2010 to return to acting and making movies.

This year, Autry has appeared in two episodes of the CW Network show “Hart of Dixie,” and Autry said today that he has been asked back for next season. In addition, Autry said he is filming a show locally called “Choices.” But his biggest current project, he said, is the mentoring program he started for youths at Fresno County’s juvenile hall.

Autry’s decision likely clears the way on the Republican side for Hanford cherry farmer Andy Vidak, who a week ago said he would run and who has been busy raising money.

In addition to Vidak, Shafter City Council Member Fran Florez – a Democrat – said Friday via Twitter that she is running. Florez is the mother of Dean Florez, who held the Senate seat before Rubio.

Besides Vidak and Florez, the only other person to say he is running is Democrat Alfred Benavides, a former Hanford Joint Union High School District trustee. But Francisco Ramirez Jr. and Fresno resident John Estrada have pulled campaign papers, according to the Fresno County elections website. Neither Ramirez nor Estrada list a political party – though Estrada has been a Democrat in the past.

Other names mentioned include Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez, a former Rubio aide and newly elected Kern County supervisor, and Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle, also a Democrat. On the Republican side, Kerman Mayor Gary Yep has said he’s looking at a run.

Perez, who is well liked by Democratic leaders, is expected to make a decision on a run next week.

Gov. Brown appoints Nevarez to Bigelow’s Madera Co. Supervisor seat

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday appointed Manuel Nevarez to replace the departed Frank Bigelow on the Madera County Board of Supervisors.

Nevarez, a Madera resident, will face re-election in June 2014. That is when Bigelow’s current term expires.

Bigelow, of O’Neals, won a seat last November in the state Assembly.

Nevarez has been an account executive at PMAC Lending Services Inc. since 2010 and owner of ACN Inc. since 2008. He is registered as “no party preference,” which used to be known as “decline-to-state.”

But between 2007 and last September, he was registered as a Republican. Through the early part of last decade, he was registered as decline to state.

Bigelow is a Republican, and the district — which covers places such as Madera Ranchos and Yosemite Lakes Park — leans GOP.

In addition to his work in the financial sector, Nevarez is a member of the Madera Community Action Network and chairman of the Madera Unified School District Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.

The position, which does not require state Senate confirmation, pays $71,515 per year.

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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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.”