Falling Asleep on the Job
Republican Assembly Member Devon Mathis was not a happy camper when he heard that fellow Republican Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza filed to challenge him for State Assembly District 26. Mr. Mathis’ response when interviewed by The Fresno Bee was, “resources that the Republican caucus would use to help Fresno Republican Clint Olivier in his race for Assembly will have to now be used to help him fend off Mendoza.”
Why would the Republican Caucus spend money to “fend off” a fellow conservative Republican?
The Republican Caucus has one main responsibility, and that is to get Republicans elected. Why would the Republican Caucus divert money from the hotly contested race for Assembly District 31, where a Republican may win for the first time in decades, to an Assembly District 26–where a Republican win is virtually guaranteed?
The situation in Assembly District 31 is similar to what happened in 2014 in California Senate District 16. State Senator, Democrat Michael Rubio, resigned early to take a job with Chevron, leaving the 16th District to pick up the million-dollar tab to conduct a special election. The backlash led to the Democrats losing their long-held seat to Republican Andy Vidak.
Assemblyman Democrat Henry Perea just did the same thing, and resigned to take a job with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA. Assembly District 31 is now on the hook to pay a million dollars to run a special election. Republican candidate Olivier has been elected twice as a Fresno City councilman in a district that is a majority Democratic, and he has a good chance at beating Democrat Joaquin Arambula.
The California Assembly Republican Caucus endorsed Mr. Mathis last September when Mr. Mendoza was not even considering a run. The Mathis office put out a press release at the time proudly announcing unanimous support from the Assembly Republicans. In reality, the endorsement is part of the benefits of being a member of the club. As one former staffer said, “If he hadn’t managed to get the endorsement, then that should be news because I think the only way that doesn’t happen for an incumbent is if they are dead.”
This same mind-frame led to Mr. Mathis, only months into his first term, throwing his hat in the ring to be elected as the minority floor leader. As one of his former staff said, “how can someone think they are qualified to become the leader of the Assembly when in January they were still trying to figure out where the bathroom is?”
Another person working with the Assembly wrote, “Of course, to be leader of the caucus means that you have to have the respect of your colleagues, but doing things like falling asleep at your desk during floor session doesn’t exactly paint one in a positive light (this actually happened in April.)”
Mr. Mathis, suggesting that the Republican caucus should support him financially just because he is an incumbent, puts his needs before the good of the California Republican Party. Just because someone offers you money doesn’t mean it’s ethical to accept it.
Not only should Mr. Mathis not assume that the caucus would disparage a fellow conservative Republican such as Mr. Mendoza, but Mr. Mathis should not accept their money.
Somehow I don’t think that would happen.
Nine Candidates Run for District 1
Because there aren’t enough people already running for Tulare County Supervisor District 1, the Tulare County Registrar of Voters extended the filing period five more days to March 16. As of now there are nine candidates, but one brave soul may file the last day, which would be after we go to press. My prediction is that the number of candidates will stay at nine, because as I said in an earlier column, we are in a “nine” year.
It’s ironic that the nomination period was extended for District 1 with nine candidates, and the nomination period is closed for District 2 which only has one candidate. Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel, representing District 2, will be running uncontested. According to the registrar of voters, “Nomination periods are extended for offices when the incumbent does not file by the deadline. Extensions to the nomination period allow any candidate other than the incumbent to file for office.” The incumbent for District 1 is Supervisor Allen Ishida, who announced last year that he had decided to run for Governor in 2018. In all the other races the incumbent filed.
The logic behind extending the nomination period when an incumbent does not file is to give potential candidates with limited name recognition and finances an opportunity to run for an open seat. In many cases it is unrealistic to try and unseat someone who has been in the public eye for years and raised thousands of dollars. It just so happens that Mr. Ishida let everyone know early that he was not going to defend his seat so the extension is not going to make much of a difference. In District 2, the extension would have made a huge difference if Mr. Vander Poel had decided not to run.
The registrar of voters’ logic is correct. Tulare County Supervisor Phil Cox and Visalia City Councilmember Amy Shuklian are running for Supervisor District 3. Both have money and name recognition, making Ms. Shuklian’s bid almost as good as being an incumbent.
When do incumbents lose? Well, the most recent upset was when Gov.
Bill Clinton beat incumbent George Bush Sr. in a victory that produced Hillary Clinton. On the local scene it is harder to say. Visalia City Council had two incumbents lose in 2008. But the last time an incumbent Tulare County Supervisor lost was, ironically, Lali Moheno–who lost to Supervisor Cox.
Maybe Ms. Shuklian will return the favor.
The food fight between Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza and Assemblyman Devon Mathis started hours after Mr. Mendoza filed to run for Assembly District 26. Lost in all their drama was fellow candidate Ruben Macareno. As Chair of the Tulare County Democratic Central Committee, he always wants to make sure that someone other than a Republican is on the ballot for a state office. He runs a serious campaign, and would like to be the district’s assemblyman, but in a conservative county like this one he has been more of a placeholder for the Democratic Party.
But now Mr. Macareno is taking a second look.
With the recent revelation that Mr. Mathis’ seat is vulnerable, and that the two Republicans will split the vote, it’s quite possible that Mr. Macareno will make it to the general election. Just a few days ago an establishment Tulare County Republican said that Mr. Macareno and Mr. Mendoza would probably be the top two finishers in the California Primary in June.
I thought that was an extreme position to take until remembering I predicted the same exact thing two years ago. For the June 2014 primary I predicted that Rudy Mendoza would come in first and Ruben Macareno would come in second. I was wrong by a long shot. Mr. Mendoza did come in first but then Mr. Mathis came in second and went on to win the election.
In 2014, I didn’t take into account that Mr. Macareno would have to split the Democrat vote with two other candidates, one of whom was the Vice Mayor of Tulare, Carlton Jones. The three Democrats combined got over 30% of the vote in 2014, which would have garnered a second place win in the primary. Mr. Macareno can count on those votes, plus the crossover Democrats who voted for Mr. Mathis in the last election. After Mr. Mathis’ pandering to the Tea Party in his first year in office, I doubt any Democrats are going to cross party lines this election.
I predict a vote so close in the assembly race that the registrar’s office will have to do a recount. Right now each candidate would probably win 30% of the vote. How that last 10% will vote is the big unknown.
If somehow Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Macareno manage to win the primary and go on to the November general election, then I will have four months to rewrite my January 20 column, What Does It Take to Elect a Mexican Around Here?