Candidates and Challengers Spar at Forum

Virginia Gurrola, Tulare County Board of Supervisors candidate, sits next to an empty chair reserved for heropponent, Mike Ennis.
Virginia Gurrola, Tulare County Board of Supervisors candidate, sits next to an empty chair reserved for her opponent, Mike Ennis.

There was a great turnout for this year’s Candidates Forum at the Visalia Convention Center Tuesday night, September 16. About 150 people gathered to hear their national, state and county representatives spar with their challengers on the big issues, three of which dominated: the drought, immigration reform and the High-Speed Rail (HSR).

Every candidate was given a minute-and-a-half to introduce themselves, and then the same to answer each question. Seven candidates were in attendance: Amanda Renteria, running against Rep. David Valadao for Congressional District 21; Sam Aguilera-Marrero, challenging Rep. Devin Nunes of the 22nd Congressional District; Jean Fuller (R) and challenger Ruth Musser-Lopez (D) for State Senate District 16; Rudy Mendoza (R) and challenger Devon Mathis (R) for State Assembly, and Tulare County Board of Supervisors candidate Virginia Gurrola.

Rep. Nunes and Rep. Valadao were unable to attend because Congress is in session.

The first question was what each candidate would do in the long-term and in the short-term to deal with the drought. All of the candidates said that we need to support the water bond. State Sen. Fuller said that she was the water point-person in the California Senate and was there when the original bond was negotiated in 2008. She added that there were some good elements in the three ground water management bills that Governor Brown just signed but that she ultimately voted against them. “We have 150 years of water law. That’s important, and we should not hand ground water management over to the state.”

The second question was on immigration reform. Renteria said, “This is real simple. We have a bipartisan bill and it’s time to pass it.” Valadao had a chance to vote on immigration reform but passed on it. Mendoza said that both parties have failed miserably on immigration reform. He said we should get the millions of immigrants out of the shadows but we need to secure our borders first.

The last question concerned how the HSR benefits Tulare County. Porterville City Council Member Gurrola simply said, “It doesn’t.” She would rather see the billions of dollars put into the county’s infrastructure. Mathis agreed. He said that we need to fix our foundation before we build the second story. Mendoza said that HSR stinks and is a bad deal. But Aguilera-Marrero was passionate about HSR. She said that HSR will reduce the carbon footprint so that it won’t stink and it will bring in the kind of jobs that Tulare County needs. “HSR goes well beyond building the system.” He added that HSR will have a ripple effect and bring in more hotels, restaurants and grocery stores.

After the question portion of the forum, each candidate sat at their designated table to talk with their constituents. Gurrola was asked about the supervisors’ plan to possibly ban medical marijuana. She believes that those with medical marijuana permits should be able to grow a few plants at their residence or have access to at least one medical marijuana dispensary. Concerning the county suing SEIU over the recent contract negotiations, she didn’t agree with taxpayers’ money going to sue their own employees. Gurrola also didn’t think that the county had a very strong case.

Mathis ended the evening by challenging Mendoza to a one-on-one debate. Because both of them are Republicans, he said that, “People have a right to know their real differences.”

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