A Private Decision on Assembly District 26 Primary Goes Public

When our publisher approached me about writing an opinion piece on who I am voting for the 26th Assembly District – my immediate response was, “No way!”

I don’t write many opinion pieces. I guess I don’t like to share what is going on in my head. I am a very private person. In my 25+ years of journalism I have written very few ed-op pieces. At my first news job in the Central Valley, I was told, “You will write a column.” Well, OK, I guess I did, although I do not remember on what – I would have to go to the Exeter Library and look it up on microfilm.

I am a firm believer that there are news writers and there are opinion writers, and I feel that seldom the two should meet in one set of pages, at least on the same subject matter. Others disagree. I have one exception – sports.

Being a person who avoids conflict, I don’t like to ruffle feathers. I don’t like politics. So, I often keep my opinions to myself. This is one of the few times, I will open up and share.

There are three candidates for State Assembly District 26 – Rudy Mendoza, a Republican who is mayor of Woodlake; Ruben Macareno, the Tulare County Democratic Party Chairman from Visalia; and incumbent, Devon Mathis, a Republican originally from Porterville, who makes Visalia his home today. All three also ran in the 2014 election for the seat.

At last minute, I decided to reach out to the candidates for a few more answers – one of the privileges of being a journalist is being able to contact people and, sometimes, on fairly short notice. However, this makes it harder for me, as I like to believe the best in everyone and in speaking with them I “generally” hear that “best.” But, I was able to garnish some information, which indeed made my decision even harder, but I am staying with my gut, for now.



If I knew less of the candidates and the race, I might choose to vote the Democrat, Macareno. He seems like a nice guy, but I see him as a non-starter. Macareno seems rather disorganized and I question taking that to the State Capitol. His website isn’t even up and running, with less than a week before the primary.

In speaking with Ruben, I was able to gather some information in his reasoning for running and his platform.

“I am a Democrat and the state has a democratically-controlled legislature,” he said.

His opponents are hardline Republicans with a focus on conservative issues, he added. And, while the focus on farming is a mutual interest, there are other issues to address, Macareno said, including healthcare, education, infrastructure and transportation.

Fundraising and publicity for the Macareno campaign has been all most nil. He said he decided from the start that he did not want PAC or union money. He also cited that democrats are few in the district, alluding to the fact that it is difficult to find money.

I do wish him luck. Voter registration within the district actually shows a little more than 45,300 Democrats (30%) with 66,500 Republicans (45%) – so, he will undoubtedly get some votes. I feel Macareno could have made out big in the primary with two Republicans splitting that party’s votes, but I don’t think it will work out that way. But, maybe.



So, on to the next – well, Mendoza is a self-proclaimed right winger. Not my cup of “tea.” And while he may not be the puppet of Assemblyman Devin Nunes (his former boss) that some claim him to be, the Devin Nunes Campaign Committee having donated $200,000 during the month of May to “Republicans for Lower Taxes 2016, Supporting Rudy Mendoza for Assembly District 26” does raise a red flag!

Granted these donations were not made to Rudy Mendoza for Assembly directly, but rather an independent group that has chosen to spend the bulk of its dollars on negative fliers toward Mathis, rather than positive information on its apparent candidate.

I spoke with Mendoza. He said in no shape or form is he any part of the “Republicans for Lower Taxes 2016, Supporting Rudy Mendoza for Assembly District 26.” Nor does he know the principal officers, Ashlee Titus, Sarah Lang or Richard Temple.

“I haven’t had any contact with him [Nunes] in months, since I left to campaign fulltime,” he said.

Mendoza said he has been going door-to-door daily for two months. He has “a grassroots campaign.” And is “knocking on [doors of] high propensity voters,” he said.

When asked if he was knocking on Democrat doors as well as Republican, he said he would “just leave it at that.”

I believe and would hope, if elected, Mendoza thinks for himself and would represent the constituents of his district. And, by the way, he seems like a nice guy too!



That leads us to Mathis, who is also a Republican, but I believe does work on a somewhat, bipartisan level. What his Republican counterparts accuse him of as working toward and voting in a non-Republican way (and not representing his constituents), I see as an approach to work both sides of the table. I believe this is something we strongly need more of in politics, from the local level to DC.

“Mr. Mathis’ motto is district, district, district,” said Sean Doherty, Mathis’ chief of staff.

He works toward and votes the way his constituents tell him is important, Doherty said.

I no longer vote party lines, but rather vote the way I feel most conviction for on any particular issue or office. I believe our senators, assembly members and congressman should as well, while representing the people who have elected them to office. Once again, remember, 30% registered voters are Democrats in this district; 45% are Republicans.

Mathis has been accused on voting in favor of a $100 million health care tax – that doesn’t seem to hold true.

According to Verbatim, Ballotpedia’s fact-checking desk –

“Mendoza claims Mathis voted for a $100 million health care tax.

But that misrepresents Mathis’ vote. Mathis did vote for legislation that includes a new tax on state health care providers, but the legislation also contains offsetting tax cuts. Legislative analysts in the state expect the legislative package to yield a net tax cut for the industry as a whole.

Some individual providers may see a net tax increase as a result of the legislation. However, we didn’t find any evidence that the increases will amount to $100 million, and the Mendoza campaign did not respond to requests for a source to substantiate that part of the claim.”

Mathis has received numerous endorsements including that of The Fresno Bee and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He is endorsed by California Assembly members including neighboring district representatives Jim Vidak, Jean Fuller and Tom Berryhill, and Congressional House Majority Leader McCarthy, according to Doherty.

Yes, I am voting for Mathis – at least at this juncture of the June primary.

Don’t get me wrong, sorry Devon, I am not your cheerleader.

I do not agree with Mathis taking 100% veteran disability benefits while working fulltime, even if it is legal – it seems immoral. And, if his wife was, or is, receiving Wounded Warrior funds for being caretaker of a man perfectly fit to care for himself, well shame on both of you, and shame on Wounded Warrior for not researching the facts more closely.

Mathis is not alone in this, Arizona Senator John McCain receives 100% veteran benefits as well, which was disputed during the 2008 presidential campaign when he said, he was in “robust health and healthy enough to hike the Grand Canyon.” Now, that is 100% disabled!

According to a Los Angeles Times story in 2008, “McCain campaign strategist Mark Salter said Monday night that McCain was technically disabled.”

No doubt, there are many others who are “technically disabled” as well. Perhaps Veteran’s Affairs should look into the physicians who diagnose a veteran as 100% (technically) disabled, while the veteran is still fit for work, and hiking the Grand Canyon.

While I appreciate they served my country, and were injured in the line of duty; if they can still work it seems incorrect that they should receive 100% veteran’s disability. Or, maybe they should call it something else – it’s misleading! How about a pension for injury during service?

I also do not agree with Mathis’ viewpoint on several traditional Republican-Democrat issues, but at this point in time I feel he is the best man running for the job. However, there is another five months following the primary for the final two candidates to challenge or reassure my vote.

I feel a little guilty not voting for a Democrat. To offset that, I vow to donate $10 to the Macareno campaign, if he makes it through. Maybe others will too. I have a friend, a Democrat, who voted for Mendoza at this time; maybe he will go for it.

No doubt, at this point, everyone is now wondering who I am voting for in the Tulare County District 1 race. Well – probably no one really cares, save for possibly the candidates. Sorry, I will not disclose that. There are some good candidates. Actually, there are a couple I feel could be good state assembly members. If anyone wants to know if they’re one of them – you’ll have to ask me, “privately.”

3 thoughts on “A Private Decision on Assembly District 26 Primary Goes Public

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  1. I agree with most of your assessment of the candidates. But knocking Mr Mathis for “taking” his veteran’s disability compensation when he is able to work shows a clear misunderstanding of what that benefit represents and the spirit on which is was granted. That veterans disability payment is a retirement check. Asking Mr Mathis to decline that money is equivalent to asking someone who served 20 years then retired from the military at age 38 to not take that money they have earned if they are going to continue working in a civilian job for another 20 years. A veteran may lose an appendage, have permanent ringing in their ears, damaged vision, night terrors….none of these conditions would preclude them from seeking gainful employment in the public or private sector after separation from the armed forces but that condition did not exist prior to their enlistment and it is a part of their physical or mental wellness they sacrificed in service to their country.

    Regarding his wife collecting benefits from the Wounded Warrior project, since I don’t have any idea to what extent Mr Mathis may or may not have been injured (that is between him and the VA) I cannot comment on that.

    But otherwise I find your assessment of these candidates to be spot on. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your explanation Kennon – as I said, it is confusing – I have heard and read different explanations from veterans and veteran affair representatives, and so still remains unclear to me. If it is as you say, then I DO believe it should be renamed.

  2. Macareno is the best choice by far to represent the whole district and its residents. No website does not equal disorganized.

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