Local elections heat up – Amy Shuklian has a challenger
What was looking like a pretty dull election year just got interesting for Tulare County Board of Supervisors (TCBOS) District 3.
In a well fought 2016 District 3 campaign, then Visalia City Council member Amy Shuklian beat incumbent Phil Cox. Her victory was an upset for sure, but Mr. Cox had some strange baggage dragging him down like the inexplicable deterioration of Mooney Grove, and his just as weird fight with a feral cat organization.
2020 was looking like an uncontested race but Ms. Shuklian now has a challenger. Real estate broker and general contractor Brad Maaske filed his paperwork October 17 to run against Ms. Shuklian for District 3.
Now the tables are turned and it is Mr. Maaske who will have the uphill battle in trying to beat an incumbent.
But who has the baggage?
Mr. Maaske said that he had been encouraging people to run for office for years and finally decided to take his own advice. “This is not something my wife and I planned on my doing, running for office.” Mr. Maaske said that he has run his own business for 40 years and is now semi-retired and mostly doing property management.
So why is he running?
There wasn’t one particular vote of Ms. Shuklian’s with which he disagreed. But he was upset with how the state was run in general such as the recently passed AB5 restricting independent contractors and the massive blackouts throughout California.
“I am disappointed in general at all levels of the government,” he said. There are policy decisions happening at every level the state, county, city councils, and school boards. “The state makes the rules but it makes a difference in how we interpret them locally.”
Specific to the county, Mr. Maaske is not pleased with how long it has taken the Tulare County Taskforce on Homeless to get anything done. He pointed out that Ms. Shuklian is the chair of this taskforce.
He said we need to stop spending money studying the issue and just do it. “We have the money in the county’s budget to deal with it,” said Mr. Maaske.
District 3 comprises Visalia and Mr. Maaske pointed out that there is a larger percent of homeless in Visalia than in Los Angeles. “It’s time to do something.”
Another issue he disagrees with is how the supervisors have handled the employee pension shortfall. He said that the supervisors turned a $20 million loss into $40 million loss when they borrowed $250 million to invest. Mr. Maaske said that the county ended up losing money on its investment and now would have to make 17% interest just to make up for the loss.
As a supervisor Mr. Maaske said he would be making decisions based on his life experience. “As a business owner I look at things differently,” he said.
Ms Shuklian pushed back on the homeless issue, saying that you can’t just form a taskforce and impose a plan. “Homelessness does not have a cookie cutter solution and it needs a custom plan. You can’t do that without community involvement,” she said.
Ms. Shuklian said that to get state matching funds the county had to create a plan that incorporates community input and stake holders. To do that the county put out a request for input and received 650 responses from the community, the most ever received from such a request, said Ms. Shuklian. Then they hosted a community summit to get further feedback. From all the information gleaned from outreach and other venues the taskforce made a plan. The final plan will be done November 11 and the taskforce will meet on November 20th to approve it. From there the TCBOS will hear a presentation then vote to approve the plan in December.
“If someone says they have a plan to solve homelessness they are either delusional or lying because we are not going to solve homelessness,” said Ms. Shuklian.
So far as her accomplishments, Ms. Shuklian campaigned on repealing the automatic supervisor raises. That policy was repealed in April. “Promise kept,” she said.
She also transformed the soupy green, trash filled pond in Mooney Grove to a family fun destination. She brought back the boats in the summer and in the winter the Department of Fish and Game stocks the pond for fishing.
Ms. Shuklian also oversaw the sale of the old Tulare County Court House on Court Street that was a drain to the county. Now, she said, it is going to be a boutique hotel and restaurant that will bring in tax dollars.
Ms. Shuklian said that she makes financially conservative decisions, is taking on the homeless issue and keeps her promises. “I’ve done a good job,” she said.
Ms Shuklian had her kickoff campaign event, a night of comedy and a fundraiser, on November 1. She had the event planned long before she knew she had a challenger.
“I wanted to let people know I was running for re-election. I don’t take people’s vote for granted.”
The last day to file to run for office is December 6 which may seem like a long way off. But what’s not a long way off is for an actual candidate to win on March 3.
Because Ms. Shuklian and Mr. Maaske are the only two running for District 3, it’s winner-take-all on March 3. In contrast, For District 1, because there are three candidates running, the top two will go on to the general election in November, 2020.
Mr. Maaske has not planned a formal kickoff party to announce his candidacy, which may prove to be a financial faux pas. It was rumored that when Larry Micari, a candidate for TCBOS District 1, threw his official launch party in March, he raised $20,000 in one night.
As of the last financial filing in June, Ms. Shuklian had $20,000 in her war chest and said she has about doubled that amount since.
Mr. Maaske said he has been conducting a soft campaign launch, meeting with small groups of supporters, talking about policy and fundraising. According to Mr. Maaske’s Facebook page, he has been soliciting campaign donations since October 1, over two weeks before the Tulare County of Registrar of Voters received his Statement of Organization or his Candidate Intention Statement, and thus before he was assigned an FPPIC ID number, which is a no-no.
So I thought I’d better do a quick Google search of Mr. Maaske, which I actually do for all candidates, and discovered that he has a restricted real estate license and a conviction by jury of a DUI in June, 2013.
Concerning the DUI, I asked if he had a driver’s license because people have said they often see him riding his bike around town. He assured me that he only lost his driver’s license for a few weeks in 2013 and that he does have his driver’s license. Mr. Maaske said he was eating and drinking in downtown Visalia and got pulled over as he drove home. He said he would never drink and drive again.
Concerning his restricted real estate license, Mr. Maaske said that it did not change how he can conduct his work as a broker or realtor. He said the restriction means he can be audited at any time to make sure he is following the rules.
Mr. Maaske said that in the market crash of 2008 he helped hundreds of people refinance their loans. A few years later the rules he followed to modify the loans, and what fees to charge his clients, as laid out by the California Association of Realtors, were deemed illegal. Twenty-one realtors were investigated and surrendered their licenses. Mr. Maaske said he decided to fight back.
His lawyer, Doug Hurt, said that Mr. Maaske followed the rules as they were stated at the time and “was really trying to help people.”
“I don’t agree with him politically but he is my real estate expert whenever I have a question. Any challenges on ethical issues are unfounded.”
When I asked who he was voting for Mr. Hurt said, “I love Amy, I plan on voting for her.”