Like some malarial recrudescence, the election season is back in our collective bloodstream. For these midterms, voting by mail–starting 7 May–will continue through the 29th. The big day itself, of course, is 5 June.
I can’t think of June without thinking of Barbara Billingsley as Mrs. Cleaver–famously, the Beav’s mom. And I can’t think of the Beav without remembering Eddie Haskell, the classic fake and consummate politician.
I’m only interested in three races, locally: That for Tulare County District Attorney, between incumbent Tim Ward and challenger Matt Darby, and the two for the junior houses of the California State Assembly and the United States House of Representatives. Namely, the re-election races of Devon Mathis and Devin Nunes.
Ask yourself: Who is the Eddie Haskell in these three contests?
But enough about classic television characters. Here’s how these election characters look to me:
In the DA race Ward seems to have anchored himself by conducting what he has termed the largest investigation in Tulare County history. Beginning last year, that’s a meandering financial inquiry into Healthcare Conglomerate Associates’ (HCCA) operations. HCCA was the alignment partner that managed Tulare Regional Medical Center from 2014 to 2017. The now-closed hospital is currently in bankruptcy court, where HCCA’s contract with the hospital was terminated.
I can’t help but think the investigation might not be so cumbersome if, back in 2015, Ward had acted on the grand jury’s hospital construction report, “Tower of Shame.” He claims he was never asked to investigate. I claim a DA’s being asked is not a requirement. And if Darby were smart he’d harp on this. He’d also do well to point out, repeatedly, that when Ward initiated this investigation, in August of 2017, it was fairly clear that HCCA was in serious trouble–read: No more campaign donations from us, Mr. Ward. Reiterating the sums Ward received from HCCA–and the many businesses owned by its CEO, Dr. Benny Benzeevi–wouldn’t hurt, either.
My guess? Ward will win in a close race–but only because the power of incumbency is almost immeasurable.
Then there’s State Assemblyman Devon Mathis of the 26th District. He’s facing three challengers, Tulare City Councilman Jose Sigala, cattleman Jack Lavers, and Visalia Mayor Warren Gubler. Mathis was tasked with asking for a Joint Legislative Audit Committee audit around the time “Tower of Shame” appeared. He did not–at least, not when he was asked to.
But last year, after State Senator Jean Fuller was asked and agreed to press the issue, Mathis joined the bandwagon. By then it was fairly clear that HCCA was in serious trouble–read: No more campaign donations from us, Mr. Mathis. If the field ranged against Mathis were smart it’d collectively harp on this. And reiterating the sums Mathis received from HCCA–and the many businesses owned by its CEO, Dr. Benny Benzeevi–wouldn’t hurt, either.
My guess? Gubler will win–but only because, in Mathis’ case, incumbency–including sexual assault allegations and accusations of flip-flopping by his constituents–has only eroded his previously good name. Incumbency has made a mess of Mathis’ life.
Which brings us to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes’ (CA-22) contest with Fresno prosecutor and Democrat Andrew Janz. The territory the Valley Voice covers, Tulare and Kings Counties, is almost tribally red–so it’s safe to say Nunes is safe. But Janz has been making inroads, and Nunes–with his behavior in aid of Trump–has tarnished his status as the incumbent. So has Nunes’ refusal to attend town hall style meetings. The natives are getting restless.
My guess? Nunes will win in an uncomfortably close race–despite what he’s done to his incumbency. The question is how slim Nunes’ margin of victory will be. Five percent or less wouldn’t surprise me. It’s what you get if you broadly ignore your constituents and blindly support one man, even if that man is the president.