Local Politics

Friday, Mar 07 2014 08:21 PM

Election match-ups solidify as deadline passes

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    The Kern County Elections office, seen in a file photo.

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

Pedro Rios paced the floor at the Kern County Elections Department Friday as the clock ticked toward 5 p.m.

He was waiting for supporters to bring him a handful of signed nomination forms -- the last paperwork he needed to set up a rematch with Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, for the 32nd Assembly District seat.

Rios left the elections office. He came back in. He left again.

Then, at 4:58 p.m., Rios -- the Republican from Delano who lost to Salas by 5.8 percentage points in November 2012 -- darted back in with a fistful of paper.

He handed the forms to Kern County Elections workers, paid his filing fee and breathed a sigh of relief.

As long as enough of those signatures by district residents turn up valid, he's made it into the race.

Friday evening was the filing deadline to run for most federal, state and local races in California's June 3 primary. Some interesting contests for state Assembly, state Senate and U.S. House of Representatives developed locally; the same can't be said, however, for county contests.

U.S. CONGRESS

At the end of the day, Democrats John Hernandez and Amanda Renteria remained the only challengers to Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, in the 21st Congressional District contest.

The race -- to represent a heavily Democratic district that leans toward Republicans in voter turnout -- has been targeted by national Democratic and Republican campaign committees and is already getting national media attention.

Hernandez, a Fresno businessman, lost big to Valadao in 2012. Renteria -- who worked as a top U.S. Senate staffer -- has the backing of the Democratic Party.

Things are much less interesting in the 23rd Congressional District, where it appeared Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield -- the House majority whip -- will run unopposed.

CALIFORNIA SENATE

State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford -- fresh off his 2013 victory in the 16th Senate District special election -- will run against Fresno school board trustee Luis Chavez for the 14th Senate District seat.

Redistricting moved much of the 16th District into the 14th District. It's a heavily Democratic area that tends to produce competitive races.

State Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, will apparently also run unopposed in her 16th District -- the redistricted territory that largely mirrors her current 18th District.

CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY

Kern County is home to four state Assembly seats. But local candidates are only running for two of those slots.

Democrat Mari Goodman will, once again, challenge Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, for the 34th Assembly District post. In 2012, Goodman seized 47,254 votes in the heavily Republican district -- but lost to Grove by 59,130 votes.

The real excitement in Assembly contests may happen in the 32nd District.

Rios, who beat the clock Friday evening, said he struggled with the decision to run against Salas a second time. He didn't decide until 10 a.m. Thursday.

But ultimately, Rios said, he feels like he has to run.

Rios is a teacher with the Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools office, he said, and feels he's making a difference in the classroom.

"I know I can do a greater good as state Assemblyman," he said.

Rios said his first run laid the groundwork for him and he's hoping that -- without the boost Salas got as a Democrat running on the same ballot as President Barack Obama -- the assemblyman might be vulnerable.

In announcing his bid for a second term, Salas touted his work nabbing $15 million for job training, writing legislation to keep highly trained doctors in the valley, working to prohibit veteran employment discrimination and fighting to re-open local community correctional facilities. He announced endorsements from Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood and three Kings County supervisors this week.

"I look forward to the opportunity to continue to fight for jobs, education, water, veterans, public safety and health services for the Central Valley," Salas said in a statement announcing his filing.

Salas will face another challenger.

Delano Union School District Trustee Romeo Agbalog -- another Republican -- also filed nomination papers.

Rios said Republican consultant Mark Abernathy will run his campaign. Abernathy has also coached Agbalog in past races.

Meanwhile, in the 26th Assembly District -- where Connie Conway has reached her term limit -- seven Tulare County candidates have thrown their name into the mix.

That district includes much of the Kern River Valley section of Kern County.

Mojave, California City and Rosamond are part of the 36th Assembly District. But the three candidates who had completed their paperwork by Friday afternoon were from Lancaster and Palmdale.

KERN COUNTY RACES

At the Kern County level, the election is shaping up to be very quiet.

Supervisors Mike Maggard and Zack Scrivner will run unopposed for four more years on the Board of Supervisors.

The same goes for Kern County Sheriff Youngblood, District Attorney Lisa Green and Auditor-Controller Mary Bedard.

The only chances for a shake-up in elected county government are in the Assessor-Recorder and Treasurer-Tax collector offices.

Assessor-Recorder Jim Fitch did not file papers to run for re-election. That's not surprising given he tried to vacate the office early one year ago.

What is surprising is that the man Fitch wanted to replace him -- Assistant Assessor-Recorder Tony Ansolabehere -- didn't file, either. Only Jon Lifquist, a top manager in the Assessor-Recorder's office who was a key leader in the reassessment of residential property following the housing market bust -- filed.

But the nomination period for the assessor-recorder post will be extended until Wednesday because Fitch chose not to run.

Wednesday will also be the deadline for candidates to run for the Treasurer-Tax collector's office being vacated by Jackie Denney. Her second-in-command -- Jordan Kaufman -- was the only person to file for her seat by Friday.

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