Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Five candidates qualify for state’s 16th District Senate race

A week of political drama narrowed the candidate field to two
front-runners in the race for the state’s 16th Senate District:
Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez and Hanford Republican Andy Vidak.

But they’re not the only ones who will be competing in the May 21
special election.

Democrat Francisco Ramirez Jr., of Riverdale, Democrat Paulina Miranda, of Fresno, and Peace and Freedom Party candidate Mohammad Arif, of Bakersfield, also qualified for the ballot by Friday’s filing deadline, according to election offices in Fresno and Kern counties.

The election is the result of former Sen. Michael Rubio’s resignation
last month. The Bakersfield Democrat took a job with Chevron.

To win his seat, one the five candidates must get 50% of the votes,
plus one, in the May election. If nobody meets that threshold, the top
two vote-getters proceed to a July 23 runoff.

Democrat Fran Florez, of Shafter, dropped out of the race earlier this
week after Perez emerged as the Democratic favorite.

Perez picked up the state party endorsement Wednesday, but only
after she moved to a new home — when Kern County elections officials told her that her old house was not in the district. A week earlier, they had said otherwise.

Senate candidate Perez kicks off campaign today in Fresno

A week after announcing her interest in replacing former state Sen. Michael Rubio, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez is officially launching her campaign in Fresno today.

The Bakersfield Democrat is hardly a household name in Fresno, the Senate district’s most populous area, but she’s hoping to change that by concentrating her initial outreach here.

Perez is opening the first of her two planned offices at 480 N. Fulton Street in Central Fresno this afternoon. She’s scheduled to talk up her credentials at a 4:30 meet and greet in which the public is invited to attend.

The race for the 16th District seat is nothing short of a crash course in campaigning. Candidates for the office, which Rubio abruptly left last month to take a job with Chevron, have had just weeks to make a decision on running and have less than two months for politicking before the May 21 election.

Perez chose Fresno for her campaign kick-off because the county is home to about half of the district’s registered voters. The rest are in Kern, Kings and Tulare counties.

Fellow Democrat Fran Florez, a Shafter City Council member, launched her campaign in Fresno last week.

Republican Andy Vidak, of Hanford, rounds out the list of front-runners so far.

The deadline to file for the contest is Friday.

Perez will benefit in the race from the district’s large share of Democratic voters and the support she has from her party’s Senate leadership, including President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

On Wednesday, the California Democratic Party is expected to figure its endorsement, which is Perez’s to lose. The endorsement comes with campaign cash that, among other things, is a big boost to name recognition.

Perez expects to open a second campaign office next week in Bakersfield.

If no candidate wins 50% of the vote, plus one, in May, the top two vote-getters proceed to a July 23 runoff.

Patterson’s first bill could be upstaged by similar one from Sens. Rubio, Lieu

New Assembly Member Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican, introduced his first piece of legislation this week, and already there’s a chance he could be upstaged on the bill by majority Democrats.

Assembly Bill 63 — with Patterson as the lead author and six other Republicans including North Fork’s Frank Bigelow as co-authors — deals with parolees or accused criminals who illegally cut off ankle monitors. Senate Bill 57, by Democratic state Sens. Ted Lieu and Bakersfield’s Michael Rubio, also deals with cutting off ankle monitors.

Jim Patterson

“The days of Republicans getting their names (as a lead author) on bills — on a popular bill — are probably past,” said Tony Quinn, a longtime political analyst and former Republican legislative aide.

Quinn said Democrats have controlled the state Legislature for 15 years, and in that time all the high-profile bills ended up with Democratic lead authors.

At least now, Patterson’s is more specific.

If the person is prosecuted for removing the ankle monitor, the current bill language says, the judge has discretion to sentence him to state prison for up to three years on the high side, or a year in county jail on the low side. If the crime is addressed as a parole violation, any sentence would be served in state prison.

At this point, the Lieu/Rubio bill only says the state Legislature intends to enact legislation that would “address the removal and disablement of global positioning system (GPS) monitoring devices by parolees and probationers.”

But Rubio said he and Lieu will soon amend the bill into a more specific proposal — one that will make such actions a felony.

Michael Rubio

Rubio said he first thought of the bill last year when Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood approached him with the idea. The timing, however, wasn’t right.

But Rubio and Lieu think the mood of the public has changed with more parolees being released under the state’s prison realignment plan, and with rape being in the news lately.

“We’re going to work it aggressively,” Rubio said. “We’ve already discussed it with a number of members.”

In the end, there could be some joining of the minds on the Senate bill.
Rubio said he and Lieu had reached out to Patterson to see if he was interested in being a co-author, and Patterson said he plans to accept the offer.

Quinn thinks that in the end, some language from Patterson’s bill could possibly end up in the one from Rubio and Lieu, which has the better chance of moving forward.