Political Fix (1 March, 2018)

Moving to the Left

An Analysis by Ruben Macareno

California Democrats met in San Diego this past weekend to endorse candidates running for the US Senate, Congress, 120 state legislative seats, and eight statewide positions starting with the governor.

The gathering of 3,500 delegates was to give clarity to Democratic voters across the state as to who are the party’s preferred candidates for office. But some will argue what was achieved instead was the appearance of an obvious change of the guard and a current disconnect between party activists and the everyday Democratic voters.

The surprise of the convention was that the very popular sitting US Senator Diane Feinstein was denied a state party endorsement along with three of the top statewide positions, including Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General. The 60% threshold of delegates’ votes that the party rules state must be achieved for endorsement were not met for those positions.

Feinstein’s inability to get the endorsement signifies the party is moving much more to the left at a much faster pace than anticipated. It is moving from traditional and established Democrats to a new wave of younger and much more progressive activists and ideologies.

However it also demonstrates a current disconnect. The most notable is Feinstein’s race against a younger and much more progressive opponent, State Senator Kevin de Leon. The most recent Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll among likely voters found Feinstein ahead by 30 points—46% to 17%–over de Leon and that he was largely unknown to the general public.

Yet, at the convention the Democratic faithful gave de Leon a 57% to 34% victory in delegate votes for the endorsement. Although de Leon’s gap was sizable over Feinstein’s, it was not enough for a party endorsement.

There were a few other congressional and state house seats that were not endorsed as well, including the 14th State Senate race here in the Valley, an office for which I am running.

The current transition of the party pits the traditional wing against the progressive. It is best illustrated in the race for the 14th State Senate seat currently held by Republican Senator Andy Vidak, who is being challenged by three Democrats. I bowed out of the opportunity to be endorsed, citing the flawed process and our beleaguered intra-party politics at the national, state and local levels.

It’s not about the candidates but the political bosses’ agendas as to why I decided to forgo the process. In the race for the 14th State Senate seat, the current, progressive, and younger party regional director is assisting Melissa Hurtado of Sanger. My other opponent, Abigail Solis of Earlimart, is being assisted by the older, more traditional, and established past regional director.

Ultimately neither won the endorsement, which was a victory of sorts for me because I didn’t have to pay thousands of dollars in fees and expenses, and it leaves me in equal standing with my opponents within the district’s Democratic base.

In a nationally high profile race between candidates seeking to oust Congressman Devin Nunes three formidable Democrats have emerged. Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz, formerly of Visalia, was endorsed over his two opponents Francisco “Rico” Franco and Bobby Bliatout.

However there was drama as well in that seat’s nominating process, as Bliatout made the claim that a full list of delegates was kept from him by the regional director as he realized the party favored Janz. The claim that he did not receive the full list was confirmed for various organizational reasons and a challenge was presented. Janz survived the challenge and ultimately received the endorsement.

Another surprise to many, and notable point of disconnect, was for the race for Governor. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are in a dead heat for office according to several statewide polls. Yet Villaraigosa fell to last place in delegate balloting with 9% behind Newsom at 39%, California Treasurer John Chiang at 30% and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin with 20%.

Villaraigosa has been rapidly gaining on Newsom in the polls as he has been visiting many communities usually not frequented by statewide candidates such as Farmersville, Shafter, Wasco and other such locations. The PPIC polls numbers put Newsom at 23%, Villaraigosa 22%, Chiang 9% and Eastin 4%.

Local candidates who received endorsements: Tulare City Councilman Jose Sigala for Assembly District (AD) 26, Incumbent Joaquin Arambula AD 31, Incumbent Rudy Salas AD 32, Attorney Emilio Huerta for Congressional District (CD) 21, Incumbent Jim Costa CD 16. All ran unopposed.

More Political Disconnect

California is home to 39 Democratic congressional seats and 14 Republican. Ten of those Republican seats are considered to be vulnerable and seven of those districts fell to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The California Democratic Party is wrangling to flip all of them.

Of those seven, Congressman David Valadao’s district 21 fared the worst, losing to Ms. Clinton by double digits.

The 21st Congressional District is 45.6% Democrats, 28.3% Republican–and 71% Hispanic.

Ms. Clinton received 54.7% of the vote compared to Trump’s 39.3%.

So how do Democrats manage to lose this district?

And they lose it badly. In 2014 Democrat Amanda Renteria lost 57.8% to 42.2%. In 2016, Democrat Emilio Huerta lost to Mr. Valadao 56.7 to 43.3%. Both had strong resumes and Mr. Huerta had enviable name recognition.

Let’s start with Mr. Huerta

Mr. Huerta is challenging Mr. Valadao again in 2018. He has $112,023 on hand in campaign contributions to Mr. Valadao’s $862,980. Mr. Huerta doesn’t live in the district and, looking at his outdated website, it doesn’t seem that he has a campaign office either.

Maybe that’s why Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections all rate the clearly Democrat District 21 as likely going Republican.

But there is more.

His mom, famous labor organizer Dolores Huerta, is being accused of working behind the scenes to make sure the only Democrat on the ballot is her son.

According to Sara Wire of the Los Angeles Times, “Elected officials, local activists and other congressional sources said Huerta is having pointed conversations to try to make sure her son, Emilio Huerta, is the only Democrat challenging Republican Rep. David Valadao. A local lawyer, he lost badly to Valadao in 2016.”

Mr. Huerta responded on his Facebook page, “Wire conveniently fails to identify any of these purported elected officials thereby calling into question her veracity and her failure to disclose her unabashed support for Republican David Valadao.”

But Mr. Huerta did not address the irregularity of a lone Democrat running in a district that could easily flip – this, in a year when Democrats are averaging half a dozen or so candidates to run against vulnerable California Republicans.

A few days ago, Huerta wrote a self-congratulatory post about how the California Democratic Party endorsed him by 97% for District 21. “We were uncontested at the convention and received unanimous approval.”

Gee, maybe that was because he was the only Democrat on the ballot.

In response to the article about his mother, a supporter said on Mr. Huerta’s Facebook page, “The LA Times article did make a good suggestion for your up-coming campaign to publicize more with Twitter, Facebook, and social media. Fundraising will be a major concern and crucial issue here. The article says Valadao has already raised over 1 million dollars.”

Mr. Huerta responded, “i thought we were doing enough. But your [sic] right, doesn’t hurt to do more to generate interest in the race.”

Yea, wouldn’t hurt.

Now let’s talk about Amanda Renteria, a candidate for Governor.

Having a Woodlake native enter the governor’s race was pretty exciting for about 30 seconds. Then flashbacks surfaced from her 2014 Congressional campaign against Mr. Valadao, and my enthusiasm waned.

In a message to Ms. Renteria’s campaign in January 2014 I wrote, “I sent an email from your website last week. Does anyone respond to those?”

I found myself writing the same in February of this year, “Is this a working email? Whoever gets this email could you please confirm receipt. Or has Ms. Renteria dropped her bid for governor?

At least I’m not alone.

Politico reported, “In the days since filing, Renteria made no campaign announcement, and she is not returning reporters’ calls. She’s raised no money and has no apparent political apparatus — a bizarre campaign opening more characteristic of a fringe candidate than a political professional.”

In 2014 I asked her campaign manager, Emily Nowlin, for Ms. Renteria’s platform positions on key issues. The response was, “Right now, our campaign is focusing on our biography so that voters can get to know Amanda’s story.”

Though I care not about Ms. Renteria’s “story,” it’s more than I received this year.

In the Fresno Bee, Rory Appleton reported Ms. Renteria as saying that she was “excited for people to see a different type of campaigning.”

On that description I’d have to agree.

June is the new November

While hanging around some old farmers they said, after reading the Tulare County Farm Bureau Newspaper, that it was the best paper in the county. I read February’s issue, and if it weren’t just once a month, I would almost agree. In fact, Patricia Stever Blattler–Executive Director of the Farm Bureau– wrote the article I wanted to write about the upcoming dates. So I interspersed parts of her article into mine.

2018 holds the promise of two main elections here in Tulare County, a primary election on June 5 and a general election on November 6, plus Tulare and Lindsay have special elections specific to elected offices in their communities.

Voters who think they are too busy to vote in the June primary need to realize that the results could change the entire political landscape.

Will we see Congressman Devin Nunes participate in a forum or conduct a town hall? If the vote in June is within five points we will.

Will Assemblyman Devon Mathis survive the primary? Though it’s extremely difficult to unseat an incumbent, Mr. Mathis has lost most of his endorsements and angered the Republican base in Tulare and Inyo Counties.

The June election will also decide who will be Tulare County District Attorney because there are only two candidates, Tim Ward and Matt Darby.

For the June 5 Primary the first day to vote by mail is May 7. The last day to register will be May 21, and the last day to mail your ballot will be May 29. Candidates must file nomination documents with the County Registrar of Voters office before 5pm on March 9. If an incumbent chooses not to run again, then an additional extension of one week is allowed for new candidates to file, ending March 14.

Tulare County Board of Supervisors District 4 and 5 nomination period will be extended to March 14 as Supervisors Steve Worthley and Mike Ennis are not defending their seats. Count on a clown car full of candidates because nine individuals ran for District 1 in 2016 when Allen Ishida retired to run for Governor.

In the November 6 general mid-term elections, all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested. Thirty-nine state and territorial governorships and numerous other state and local elections will also be contested, including California’s governorship.

The 2018 state elections will impact the redistricting that will follow the 2020 United States Census, as many states task governors and state legislators with drawing new boundaries for state legislative and Congressional districts.

Other races to watch are the Tulare County Superintendent of Schools, with four candidates, and State Senate District 14, which has four candidates. Sen. Andy Vidak is the incumbent. The Tulare County Sheriff is up for election but Sheriff Mike Boudreaux is uncontested.

Ms. Stever Blattler ended by saying, “Being informed is critical to having a voice in local issues that impact your farm, ranch, or business….. If you would like to encourage Farm Bureau to help educate voters about a specific race or office, please send me an email, I’d appreciate the feedback.”

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