We are on the cusp of the hotly anticipated midterm elections as voters mail in their ballots for the June 5 Primary. Primaries used to portend lower voter participation. But those on the front lines of the current political landscape say they have never seen this level of engagement.
This is the first election since the emergence of the #MeToo movement, the Mueller Investigation, a surge of millennials registering to vote, and the Parkland shooting.
We live in a different country, but will that affect the status quo?
We will see June 5.
Congressional District 22, Candidates: Incumbent Devin Nunes Republican, Deputy District Attorney Fresno County Andrew Janz Democrat, Healthcare Administrator Bobby Bliatout Democrat, Businessman Ricardo Franco Democrat, Human Resource Analysis Bill Merryman Libertarian, Teacher Brian Carroll No Party Preference,
What a difference two years makes.
Two years ago Mr. Nunes gave frequent interviews, held public events, and was available at his local offices for appointments.
This year he did not even attend the opening ceremonies of the World Ag Expo in Tulare. And Democrats and Republicans are getting increasingly angry at the lack of access to their local representative.
Two years ago Mr. Nunes was a moderate Republican who saved his salty language for the Tea Party or environmentalists. Now, he has alienated the Democrats with whom he works on the intelligence committee and many fellow House and Senate Republicans with his attacks on the Justice Department.
When Congressman David Valadao, who is a close friend, was asked at a recent event what he thought about Mr. Nunes’ call to impeach Attorney General Jeff Sessions his response was,
“That’s Devin’s world.”
In Mr. Nunes’ world, the House Intelligence Committee, of which he is chair, found President Donald Trump innocent of all accusations and instead found collusion between the Democrats and Russia. He doesn’t understand why Mr. Mueller is not investigating Hilary Clinton.
When the history books are written about the 2016 election, are they really going to say that the Democrats colluded with the Russians, who hate Ms. Clinton, so that she would lose the White House?
This begs the question, as Mr. Trump’s surrogate in Washington DC, does Mr. Nunes still have the undying loyalty of his district?
To find the answer I took a poll at the Visalia Saturday Farmer’s Market in the Sears parking lot.
I asked 82 people one simple question, “Who are you going to vote for for Congress?”
A full 50% said they were undecided, didn’t vote, or did not know who their representative was. That really messed with my sample, but I was using the back of a vendor’s mud caked van as my desk, so I was undeterred.
Of the remaining 42 respondents – 18 said they were voting for Nunes, 11 said “Not Nunes,” 10 said Janz, and three said Franco. (Sorry Billy)
That adds up to 24 likely voters against Nunes and 18 likely voters for Nunes. If my small sample holds up in the primary, that means Mr. Nunes will not breach 50% of the vote, which would make him vulnerable in the General Election in November.
That has not happened since 2002.
But what about the other 42 respondents who have been living under a rock and were undecided?
During the 2016 Primary, voter turnout in Tulare County was 45%. That means out of my random sample of 82 Tulare County citizens, 37 respondents will vote and 45 will not.
So it is safe to say that few of the Undecideds will vote.
For the last seven elections Mr. Nunes routinely won by more than a 40% margin. My prediction is that the margin will be reduced to under 10% with Mr. Janz coming in second. I also predict that Tulare and Fresno Counties are going to have a little bit more access to Mr. Nunes after the Primary.
Congressional District 21, Candidates: Incumbent David Valadao Republican, Entrepreneur TJ Cox Democratic
A McClatchy reporter said that the path to a Democrat-controlled Congress most likely runs through California. Democrats are banking on flipping 10 California districts from red to blue that voted for Hilary Clinton for president in 2016.
One of those considered the most vulnerable is Mr. Valadao’s 21 District.
So wouldn’t it help if constituents knew the name of the Democrat challenger running against Mr. Valadao?
Emilio Huerta used to be his challenger but withdrew from the race just days before the filing period closed.
So who took Mr. Huerta’s place?
I headed out to the Hanford Thursday night Farmer’s Market to see if anyone knew the answer.
I asked 50 people one question. “Do you know who is running against Congressman David Valadao?”
I asked all ages, ethnicities, the police, three Hanford City Council members and the town’s official pot stirrer, Skip Athey.
Out of desperation, I did ask the man running the Republican booth, but he doesn’t count.
So kudos need to be given to newly elected Hanford City Council Member Debbie Sharp, who was the only one to know the answer. When I asked her my question she grimaced, stammered, stomped her foot, and dug down deep, but finally summoned the name – TJ Cox.
A blue wave is possible this election, but not here. I predict that Mr. Valadao will actually increase his margin of victory from the Primary two years ago and win 56% to 44%.
Governor, Six top Candidates: Attorney General Gavin Newsom Democrat, State Treasurer John Chiang Democrat, Assemblyman Travis Allen Republican, Businessman John Cox Republican, California State Superintendant Delaine Eastin Democrat, Former Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa Democrat
Republican delegates attending the California state convention made a decision that will reverberate through the country in November.
They couldn’t manage to officially endorse one of their own for Governor.
The Republican front runner, Mr. Cox, is a socially tolerant fiscal conservative. Mr. Allen is facing sexual harassment charges and aligns himself with President Donald Trump.
No official Republican endorsement may mean that neither Mr. Cox nor Mr. Allen survives the primary and that no Republican will be at the top of the ballot in November. Never in California has there been two candidates of the same party running for Governor.
If Republicans do not show up to vote in the general election, every single Republican held Congressional district is in danger of flipping. (except Mr. Valadao’s)
I’m going to lend some advice instead of give a prediction. If you are a Democrat and want to flip as many Republican Congressional districts as possible, vote for Mr. Villaraigosa. He is hanging on by his finger nails to a second place spot while the Republicans are splitting the conservative vote.
If you are a Republican, vote for Mr. Cox. He will not beat Gavin Newsom for Governor, but he has the best chance of coming in second and will give Republicans a reason to go to the polls this November.
Assembly District 26, Candidates; Incumbent Devon Mathis Republican, Visalia Mayor Warren Gubler Republican, Tulare City Council Member Jose Sigala Democrat, Cattle Rancher Jack Lavers Republican
One could say that the assembly seat has been whittled down to a race for second.
Mr. Gubler, who most likely will come in first, has run a textbook campaign and is the establishment’s dream candidate. I predict he will receive around 36% of the vote.
Mr. Lavers has no name recognition and lives in a small community in Kern County with only 363 souls. It’s hard to imagine that he will get many more votes than that and will come in last with at most 9% of the vote
That leaves Mr. Mathis and Mr. Sigala to split 55% of the vote.
A Democrat is not going to win in this district, but any garden variety will snag 26% of the vote in a primary, and more in a general election. In addition, Mr. Sigala has had quite an impressive stint on the Tulare City Council and has received every Democratic endorsement.
Mr. Mathis is the incumbent, but after a rough two years he knows even that might not be enough to get him through the Primary.
So who is going to survive? It’s going to be complicated.
Though minor, I have only heard two criticisms about Mr. Gubler. The first came from a couple of his acquaintances who didn’t appreciate how he had to litigate every point during the League of Women Voters candidates’ forum.
The second was from a Republican voter who said that Mr. Gubler was too slick, too polished.
That’s not something about which people normally get criticized, but it made me finally understand how Mr. Mathis won as an unknown in 2014.
He is the face of America.
Mr. Mathis didn’t try to get elected riding on someone else’s coat tails like Rudy Mendoza did in 2014.
He is the middle of nine siblings, his parents are divorced, and he wasn’t raised with a lot of money. He doesn’t have the perfect marriage and kids. His education was paid for by serving in the military, where he realized he was a lot smarter than he thought and graduated with honors.
He wasn’t so smart though to prevent him from making some big mistakes while an Assembly member. By his own admission, during a speech where you could have heard a pin drop, he said, “Life isn’t easy. Politics is even worse. I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons, a lot of hard lessons, about being in office, about responsibilities, about talking with people–that I need to do better.”
But are the voters going to give Mr. Mathis a second chance?
The Republican establishment never wanted Mr. Mathis to win four years ago and now they are determined to see him lose in the Primary. Mr. Gubler has their and the moderate Republican’s vote. Mr. Sigala has the Democratic vote that has increased in the age of Trump.
Mr. Mathis? He is going to get the Tea Party vote, the Trump base, and every person out there who feels just a little ignored by society as a whole.
Will it be enough for this born again underdog?
Tulare County Board of Supervisors District 4 covering Woodlake, Dinuba, Traver, and Ivanhoe, Candidates: Former Cutler-Orosi School Board Member Romelia Castillo, Dinuba Vice Mayor Kuldip Thusu, President of the Cutler-Orosi School Board Eddie Valero.
“My family moved to Dinuba in 1998 to raise our family and open our business that employs 65 medical professionals dedicated to the health of local families,” says Mr. Thusu’s candidate statement.
Open a business he did. Move his family to Dinuba he did not.
During the Orosi Candidates’ Forum he said the year was actually 1996, even though he was allegedly in Buffalo, New York getting his masters degree at the time.
From approximately 2008 – 2016 give or take, his kids were attending Clovis North High School where the Thusu family owns a luxury home.
In addition, I surveyed all of his donations and he received 14 from Fresno County and 6 from Tulare County, just like someone would who lived in one county and worked in another.
Despite the fact that Mr. Thusu has a tenuous claim to residency in Tulare County, he has a ton of money and name recognition. I predict that he will come close to winning the supervisor’s seat outright in the Primary.
Tulare County District Attorney, Candidates: Incumbent Tim Ward, Deputy District Attorney for Kings County Matt Darby
Mr. Darby has accused Mr. Ward of pay-to-play politics. Mr. Ward has maintained that Mr. Darby is too inexperienced and not ready for prime time.
With his young family and two jobs, Mr. Darby has struggled to put the time needed into his campaign to unseat an incumbent.
Mr. Ward, for his part, denies the pay-to-play politics and defends his timing into the investigation of Benny Benzeevi, CEO of HealthCare Conglomerate Associates, and the Tulare Hospital.
Because this election will end June 5, I predict that the chances of Mr. Darby’s defeating Mr. Ward as very remote.
Going in for a deeper dive, Mr. Darby stated that Mr. Ward’s formation of the Crimes Against Children Unit was a political ploy. This was a risky accusation because the Unit has been a very popular addition to the DA’s office.
But a week after Mr. Darby’s claim, two adult victims of child abuse came forward to the press, saying that their case had been languishing for six months after the Tulare County District Attorney (TCDA) office opened an investigation.
The DA’s office countered by saying that it handles 20,000 cases a year. So when it receives incomplete cases such as the aforementioned, it kicks them back to the originating police department to finish the investigation.
This kick back resulted in two child molesters roaming free and an investigation sitting forgotten at the Exeter and Farmersville Police Department.
Mr. Ward campaigned in 2014 on the fact that he formed the Crimes Against Children Unit so cases just like these would not fall between the cracks. Tulare County residents were lead to believe that the unit had its own team of investigators, supervisors and funds devoted to putting child molesters behind bars.
But Assistant District Attorney Dave Alavezos said that they do not have the resources to conduct follow-ups with the police departments. He added that all their extra resources have been taken up by the ongoing investigation of Mr. Benzeevi.
And thus we come full circle.
Many a disgruntled Tulare resident believes that their hospital would still be open and that Mr. Benzeevi would have never been able to commit any alleged crimes had Mr. Ward opened an investigation in April of 2016.
And the victims who broke their silence are still waiting for justice while two small cash strapped police departments struggle to complete their investigation – all because the DA’s office has run out of money.
By the June 5 Primary two known child molesters, one local and one across the country, will have been free for eight months. What is the Crimes Against Children Unit going to do to protect their next victims?