Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

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.

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.

Kings supervisor Valle decides against Senate run

Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle said he will not seek election to the state Senate.

Valle, a Democrat, issued a statement late Sunday:

“Over the past two weeks, I’ve heard from a number of people from throughout the Valley encouraging me to run for the recently vacated State Senate District 16 seat. I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support. I have given it honest consideration but have decided not to run. There is a lot left to be done in Kings County and I want to focus my work here and where I can spend time with my family. I greatly appreciate everyone’s support and want to say thank you.”

The Senate seat became vacant when Michael Rubio of Bakersfield, a Democrat, suddenly resigned last month to take a job with Chevron in Sacramento. A special election is scheduled for May 21 with a July 23 runoff, if needed.

The district includes parts of Kern, Fresno and Tulare counties and all of Kings County.  Political Data Inc., which collects voter information, said registration in the 16th Senate District was 50.7% Democratic and 28.6% as of Feb. 22.