Political Fix (1 October, 2015)

District 1 Race Gets Crowded

When Tulare County Supervisor Allan Ishida announced that he was not running for re-election, two strong contenders, and one unknown, came forward to throw their hat in the ring for the open seat; Vincent Salinas, Ted Macaulay and newcomer, Kuyler Crocker. At first glance, it seemed the rightful heir to Tulare County Supervisor District 1 was going to be the former mayor of Exeter, Mr. Macaulay. But after a little research that doesn’t seem to be the case. The “newcomer” while young, wasn’t so unknown.

While I was at the Voter Registrar’s office snooping through everyone’s financial records, in walked Mr. Macaulay. He was mayor of Exeter for 12 years and is located in the heart of District 1. He asked the lady behind the counter if any more people had filed their paperwork to run for Tulare County Supervisor District 1. She said that no one has officially filed their paperwork because candidates can’t until January 1, 2016. Candidates have been filing their financial forms, however, if they want to start fundraising.

Even though my derriere was well ensconced in front of the registrar’s only computer terminal available to the public, I relinquished my seat to Mr. Macaulay to go make a phone call. He was looking into Mr. Crocker’s financial statements, and after he left, I thought I would also.

I was surprised to find out that the 28-year-old from Strathmore had already raised $16,825 for his campaign. Mr. Crocker had also hired Evette Bakke, a political finance director who handles the campaign finances for everyone who is anyone running for office in Tulare County–or at least those who can afford her. It also appears that Mr. Crocker, and not Mr. Macaulay, is the appointed heir apparent to District 1. Not only is Mr. Crocker a former staffer of Congressman Devin Nunes, but, in June of this year, Supervisor Ishida donated $1,000 to Crocker’s campaign. Of course Rudy Mendoza, also a staffer for Rep. Nunes, was the heir apparent in the 26th Assembly District race–and look what that got him.

Lost somewhere in the mix is former Visalia City Planner Vincent Salinas. Before realizing the heft of his two opponents, I assumed Mr. Salinas would win the supervisor’s race. He has the experience, speaking skills, name recognition, and conservative chops that county voters want. Now it’s looking like District 1 will be the hardest fought local race of 2016.

One last interesting tidbit: I noticed that in Mr. Crocker’s fervor to serve his community he has not bothered to vote, at least not for the last five years. Maybe he can take the time to find a ballot box in 2016, if only to vote for himself.

Shupe Ahoy!

When the last issue of the Valley Voice hit the stands on September 17, Matt Shupe, director of communications for Assemblyman Devon Mathis, was pretty hot under the collar. Mr. Shupe called me at 12:00pm sharp to say that my article in Political Fix about Assemblyman Mathis was completely wrong. Mr. Shupe explained that Assemblyman Mathis did not submit his name, as a freshman member, to be considered as minority leader of the state assembly. He and Sean Doherty, Assemblyman Mathis’ chief of staff, understand that the press has to do its job but did not appreciate my writing an unsubstantiated story.

I responded that my sources might have been incorrect and I encouraged them to write a rebuttal. In fact, I very much looked forward to reading it. The Valley Voice would immediately post their rebuttal on Facebook and include it in our next issue.

“Sean is writing one as we speak,” Mr. Shupe said.

Making sure Mr. Shupe wasn’t so upset about my article that our get together was canceled, I asked, “are we still on for our meeting next week?”

“Absolutely,” said Mr. Shupe.

So I anxiously waited for Mr. Doherty’s response, and I waited and I waited. I wondered why, in all my naiveté, his response was taking days to land in my inbox, when I finally realized, it wasn’t coming at all. I then waited for Mr. Shupe to confirm our meeting, and waited and waited.

Not only did Mr. Shupe not show up for a “meet and greet” that he initiated with the Valley Voice, Mr. Doherty did not write a rebuttal to my Political Fix article. The reasons why Mr. Doherty did not set the record straight on Assemblyman Mathis concerning the minority leader position, I will leave to the discretion of our readers.

With one false step after another, I thought, is Assemblyman Mathis’ rough start to his first term all in my head or is it true? Is it his staff or is it him? So I conducted a super scientifically administered survey at Visalia’s Saturday Farmer’s Market in the Sears parking lot. I wanted to hear outside of the spin room how well known Assemblyman Mathis is. I spoke to all age groups, ethnicities and income earners, and this is what I found.

Out of the 60 people I interviewed, 51 did not know the name of their assemblyperson. Nine knew it was Assemblyman Mathis, but that included a handful of people who said “I think his name starts with an ‘M.’” To be generous I put them down in the “yes” column. Of the 51 people who didn’t know who their assemblyperson was, I encouraged them to guess. Four of them said Rudy Mendoza. Many others said former Assemblywoman Connie Conway, who they loved, and I assured them they could vote for her again in 2018 state senate election.

The good news for Assemblyman Mathis is that Mr. Mendoza did not rank high in the favorable comments category during my survey, and a rematch would be extraordinarily ill-advised. It is possible that Assemblyman Mathis may not face a serious contender in 2016. The bad news is that not a lot of people know who their assemblyperson is, so he has just a little better name recognition than he did when he started his campaign in 2013.

The survey was much more revealing in the comments than the numbers. An

anecdotal story of Assemblyman Mathis’ first year came from a person high up in the administration of the Visalia Unified School District (VUSD.) The VUSD and the Tulare Unified School District always stay in close communication with their assemblyperson. (They loved Ms. Conway.) Because of issues involving state education funds, administrators need to be in close contact with their representatives. Neither had been successful in establishing a line of communication with Assemblyman Mathis’ office.

It’s also interesting to note that every person I surveyed, plus a few more, who voted in the 2014 election, faithfully reads our paper. One of the shoppers at the farmers market said, “You know the Valley Voice is our only true source of information.” Communication directors for politicians, please take note.

In the end, nine out of 60 people actually isn’t that horrible in name recognition. Assemblyman Mathis is probably better known in Porterville than Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who might be the country’s next Speaker of the House.

Lewis Griswold from The Fresno Bee just did an informal survey in front of Porterville’s main post office and many had not heard of the congressman. The takeaway is that Assemblyman Mathis was well liked when he was first elected, at least by those who knew of him. He has had a rough and slow start to his first term in office, but unlike many people, he may get a second chance.

In the meantime, I have some down to earth advice for the communications director and chief of staff – take your ego out of the equation and do your job. If Assemblyman Mathis does get a second chance to right this ship and serve another term, you both may not be aboard.

Local Boy Does Even Better

For all those who have been living under a rock for the last week, Representative John Boehner of Ohio announced that he would be stepping down as Speaker of the House at the end of October. Rep. Boehner’s announcement caused more of a ruckus in Washington, DC than either the Pope’s or Xi Jinping’s visit, causing Rep. Nunes and Rep. McCarthy to miss Tulare County’s annual Lincoln dinner on September 27.

What’s newsworthy for us locals, so far away from the upheaval going on in DC, is that one of our South Valley representatives, McCarthy is the number one choice to become the next Speaker of the House. Rep. McCarthy announced his candidacy for the position of House Speaker on Monday. No date has been set for the election, but the nominee must be approved by a majority of the 435-member House. The House is comprised of 247 Republicans to 188 Democrats, so the next Speaker will definitely be Republican.

If elected, Rep. McCarthy will be the only Central Valley representative to ever be third in line to the presidency. Just last year, he was also the only Central Valley representative to ever be elected as Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Congressman McCarthy represents District 23, which covers most of Kern County and the eastern areas of Tulare County including Lindcove, Lemon Cove, Three Rivers, Springville, Strathmore and Porterville. The only other representative from California to be Speaker of the House was Rep. Nancy Pelosi from 2007 to 2011.

Rep. McCarthy’s rise in power has been as shocking as it has been fast. After winning his first election to Congress in 2007 it only took him four years to attain the position of House Whip, the third most powerful position in Congress. It didn’t seem likely that Rep. McCarthy would rise in the ranks anytime soon–until an unlikely series of events occurred. Rep. Eric Cantor, the second in command in the majority leader position, lost his seat in a shocker of an election in the 2014 Virginia primary. Then Rep. Boehner shocked everyone by announcing he was stepping down as Speaker of the House on October 30. Enter stage right Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

The Tea Party wing of Congress is cheering Rep. Boehner’s departure, but they shouldn’t expect anything different from Rep. McCarthy. He is a bridge-builder and great fundraiser for all fellow Republicans no matter how conservative, but he is not one of them. The group of 30 that calls itself the House Freedom Caucus will undoubtedly like Rep. McCarthy as a person, but they are not going to like the way he votes. Rep. McCarthy is firmly ensconced in the “establishment” wing of the Republican Congress, which the House Freedom Caucus hates more than Democrats.

Rep. Nunes, who never fails to add colorful commentary when it comes to the Tea Party, said, “They just come out here to you guys and complain and they blog and they Facebook, but when it’s time to actually raise money and go recruit candidates and win elections so that you can stop Obama, which is what they say they want to do, they don’t have the capability of doing it.”

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