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Monday, Jan 23 2012 05:07 PM

Democrat jumps into congressional race

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    By Courtesy John Hernandez

    John Hernandez, CEO of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has decided to seek the newly created 21st Congressional District seat. Hernandez, a Democrat and Fresno State graduate, has been the executive director since 2006 and is now CEO of the chamber.

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

The Democratic void left by the withdrawal of state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter from the 21st Congressional District race against Assemblyman David Valadao, R-Hanford, is beginning to draw potential candidates.

On Monday, Fresno Democrat John Hernandez, chief executive officer of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, announced he will run for the seat and urged other potential Democrats to drop their bids and back him.

"We have a lot of catching up to do with Valadao," Hernandez said.

A native of New Mexico who moved to Fresno in 1988 and graduated from Fresno State, according to his resume and online biography, Hernandez worked in the insurance industry for nearly 10 years before becoming CEO of the hispanic chamber in December 2006.

He offered up his time working for the chamber as proof he has a lot to offer district voters who largely live in small, rural communities spread across the western side of the southern San Joaquin Valley.

"I really care about Central California and the valley. Some of these smaller towns, there are a lot of people who are hurting," Hernandez said. "I have a strong record of helping small businesses and working in the community."

His also supports construction of the California high-speed rail system.

"It is a critical piece of infrastructure that is going to lead to a more prosperous valley," he said.

Hernandez said he has been talking with Democratic congressional campaign leaders and hopes to have their support as well as that of Rubio, whose endorsement he is seeking.

"I've learned how to work, work, work. We're in it to win it," he said.

However there are other names on the maybe list for the 21st District.

According to the Fresno Bee, Democratic Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong has been pushed to run for the seat.

And Democrat Dean Florez, the former state senator and assemblyman from Kern County, has expressed interest in the race.

Asked Monday if he'd decided whether to run, Florez was brief and to the point.

"Nope. Still pondering," he said in an email.

Kern County Democratic Party Chairwoman Candi Easter, who has said previously that there is a potential candidate in the wings, said Monday that Hernandez is not that person.

Hernandez does not live in the 21st Congressional District, according to a statement from his campaign staff, but works in the district.

The new district -- which was created in 2011 by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission -- includes much of western Kern County, Arvin, Lamont and parts of southeast Bakersfield plus most of Kings County, including Hanford, and rural Fresno County. It stops just short of Dos Palos west of Madera.

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