After eight years in the legislature, State Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-32) is ready for at least two more years in Sacramento.
First elected in 2012, the same year California voters doubled term limits for lawmakers to 12 years, Salas has gained a reputation as a solid representative. Still, in a deeply red area he faces a Republican challenger, former Kings County sheriff deputy and gun store owner Todd Cotta. The wildly gerrymandered 32nd District, snakes from the tiny town of Laton in northern Kings County into rural southern Kern County, flowing around the majority of Bakersfield.
Why Another Term?
The reason Salas wants to spend another two years as the district’s assemblyman is simple, he says.
“To make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Salas said. That’s why I’ve always run.”
Starting out as “just one of these Valley kids” who occasionally spent part of his youth working alongside his father picking grapes gave the veteran assemblyman, he says, a unique insight on life in his part of the southern San Joaquin Valley. Life here has also made clear the many ways it could be improved. The keys, according to Salas, are easier access to better education, as well more jobs.
Simply put, making people feel secure against poverty and environmental degradation and abuse of government power are of paramount importance
“That means more opportunities,” Salas said. “That when we come home we feel safe.”
Money for the Valley
Specifically, Salas points to the millions of dollars that have flowed into the Central Valley as a result of the various programs he’s helped bring to fruition. In describing why he should be reelected, the incumbent underlines how he’s helped bring vocational training funding to the area, and how he helped secure state funding for a new police station in Corcoran and for the new detention center in Kings County.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Salas has been focused on feeding hungry Valley residents, both by securing state funding for food banks, but also by getting his hands dirty.
“I’ve been doing a lot of food drives,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of people who are hurting.”
He’s also been working hard to cut red tape and shorten delays unemployed Californians are experiencing as the Employment Development Department (EDD) struggles to cope with thousands of unemployment insurance claims related to the pandemic.
“I think we’ve handled more than 3,000 cases of unemployment insurance,” Salas said. “Some people have been waiting since March or April. We’ve been on EDD constantly. We’ve called for an audit of EDD to find out what’s going on.”
Addressing Valley Issues
The issues of poverty and protecting the environment are of concern to all Californians, but there are issues unique to our area of the Central Valley, and Salas says he’s spent considerable time educating his fellow legislators about the area’s problems and needs.
Two years after he took office, Salas led the campaign to save the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program from being defunded, he helped secure $130 million to maintain the Friant-Kern Canal, as well as working funding for improved water quality into the state budget. He has also been working hard to spearhead funding for research into valley fever, a life-threatening fungal infection that has sickened thousands of Valley residents over the decades.
“A lot of my colleagues were, like what is valley fever, do I need to worry about it?” Salas said. “I was able to let them know it affects almost all the state. I was able to not only point out the numbers, but that in every member’s district there are patients.”
The effort resulted in $5 million in funding for valley fever research.
Salas has also striven, he says, to improve the lives of those who are already hard at work in the Central Valley. As proof, he offers his recent work to give emergency dispatchers better recognition for the important job they do for our communities.
“This year, there was a 911 dispatcher in Kings County who came to us and said they’re classified as clerical,” Salas recalled. “That didn’t seem right. We’ve got a bill on the governor’s desk that will classify them as first-responders.”
Beyond politics, Salas says he is dedicated to his extended family and genuinely enjoys spending time with them.
“I love hanging out with my nieces because they never ask me political questions,” he said. “They just want to run around and play. Family always centers you.”