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By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY JAMES BURGER AND THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writers email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you paid attention only to the ads for Tuesday's 16th Senate District showdown between Republican Andy Vidak and Democrat Leticia Perez, you might think they disagree on everything.
They actually agree on more than they disagree when it comes to many of the major issues of the contest.
HOW TO VOTE
Here's what you need to know before voting Tuesday:
What's on the ballot?
A special election to fill the open 16th Senate District seat vacated by Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, in February.
Am I eligible to vote in this election?
Those eligible were sent a sample ballot (unless they opted out of receiving one) or a vote-by-mail ballot packet (for those who vote by mail). Also, you can look up your voting districts at elections.co.kern.ca.us/elections.
When can I vote?
Polls are open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday.
Where do I go?
Your polling site is listed on the back of the sample ballot mailed to you. You also can find yours online at Elections.co.kern.ca.us using the "Your polling place" link or by calling Kern County elections at 868-3590 or 800-452-8683.
When's the best time to go to the polls?
Officials recommend mid-morning or mid-afternoon to avoid long lines that usually form before and after work times, and at lunchtime.
They agree on water, taxes, fracking and same-sex marriage. Each also believes the other is a bad choice for the Senate job.
But Perez supports California's high-speed rail project. Vidak doesn't.
Perez supports an increase in the state's minimum wage. Vidak opposes it.
Here's what the two candidates have said about the major issues.
Name: Leticia Perez
Job: Kern County supervisor
Pitch: Perez says her experience as a Kern County planning commissioner, staffer for former 16th District state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, and supervisor has helped her "internalize" the complexities of government. That gives her an understanding of the issues and how to make an impact that Vidak doesn't have, she contends.
And, Perez says, as a Democrat she will have a seat at the table with the legislature's ruling party.
"A lot of people say we have the same opinions. Great. Who's going to be at the table?" she asked rhetorically. "It's a difference that makes a difference."
Name: Andy Vidak
Job: Hanford farmer
Pitch: Vidak says his private sector experience is what voters need in Sacramento. The state already has plenty of legislators who have government experience, he says.
"I've been an employee. I've been an employer. I've created jobs," Vidak said. "Eighty-nine percent of (legislators) have been government people. How's that working out for us? We need to have someone who understands the impacts of laws, rules, regulations and taxes."
Issue: High-speed rail
Vidak: "Of course I'm against it. The proposed rail plan is not what the voters voted on. It's going to cost three or four times what the voters voted on. They are putting us in debt not only for our grandchildren but our great-grandchildren."
The project -- which he called a boondoggle that won't travel as quickly as promised and will have to operate with public subsidies -- will create jobs.
"That doesn't necessarily mean those jobs will be local," Vidak said. "People from all over will have the opportunity to come here and work on this."
Perez: The high-speed rail project, she said, "is the biggest infrastructure project in the United States. It is the largest jobs program in the state of California. It will infuse the Central Valley with tens of thousands of jobs."
The valley needs to claim those jobs, she said, by making workers get the training they need to do them.
Issue: Water and a canal around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta
Perez: "I support the increase in (water) allocation that our farmers have been paying for for some time," Perez said. "I support the governor's (canal) plan. This is a plan to capture fresh water we are losing every day. It's water that gets dumped into the San Francisco Bay because we don't have a way to capture it and use it."
Vidak: "I ran for Congress in 2010 because of the water. Since then nothing's gotten better. It's actually gotten worse. Next year we're going to be looking at catastrophic unemployment in the west side of the valley," Vidak said.
Plans to build canals and above-ground storage are being opposed by Democratic leaders in the legislature and those plans must be protected.
"You have to do that by changing the legislators one seat at a time," Vidak said. "I'm going to be fighting for every drop I can get for the Central Valley."
Issue: Minimum wage
Perez: "Families in the Central Valley need a raise," Perez said during the primary. "I believe it's the best way to put money into the hands of workers that goes right to small business."
A minimum wage increase is one of Perez's signature ideas and she said other neighboring states have lower unemployment because the minimum wage is higher than in California.
Raising the minimum wage puts more money into the economy, she said, and that means more money for businesses and more work for workers.
Vidak: "Raising the minimum wage does not create jobs. It's ludicrous," he said. "It doesn't help anybody that doesn't have a job. It drives up costs."
Vidak said his opponent's stance is just an example of how she doesn't understand private business.
"We're over-taxed and over-regulated here and that's why people are leaving the state -- not because there is a higher minimum wage somewhere else." he said. "It doesn't work. It costs jobs."
Issue: Tax increases
Stance: Agree, disagreeably
Perez: "I believe very strongly in the will of people to govern themselves. When it comes to determining how much of their money should go to the government," Perez said, it should be up to the people. "I don't believe it's appropriate for me as a legislator to tell people, 'Give me more of your money.'"
Vidak: "We don't have an income problem in this state. We have a spending problem. We are the number one taxed state in the nation for small businesses. We have to roll that back. We have to make this a business-friendly state."
Attack: Vidak ads have attacked Perez for voting for a tax increase. His claims refer to Proposition 30, a state ballot initiative passed by the voters in 2012 that temporarily increased sales taxes and high-earners' income taxes -- lasting four and seven years respectively -- to shore up the state budget.
Perez "supported" Proposition 30 by voting for it. She says that's in keeping with her stance that tax increases should only be passed by voters.
Vidak said he voted against Proposition 30.
Issue: Hydraulic fracturing
What it is: Fracking pumps sand, large amounts of water and small concentrations of sometimes-toxic chemicals underground at high pressure to free up oil and gas deposits. The practice has proved highly useful to the industry even as critics worry that it presents environmental risks.
Vidak: Hydraulic fracturing "can put hundreds of thousands of people to work immediately," Vidak said.
Rather than imposing more regulation of the practice, government needs to leave the industry alone, he said.
"We've been doing it for 60 years with no problem. Why do we need more regulations? They're regulated now," Vidak said. "We're going to regulate everybody back to Texas."
Perez: "There are a lot of concerns that are legitimate from people who live in the valley and breathe our air and drink our water," Perez said. But decisions about fracking have to be studied, not made because someone is concerned.
She is proud to be a part of the Kern County Board of Supervisors' effort to study the practice and publish detailed information about how the process is used and how it should be regulated.
"Fracking is a tool -- a vital tool that has been used by the industry since the '50s," Perez said.
Issue: Same-sex marriage
Perez said she believes marriage is between one man and one woman. But, she said, government should not be a part of discriminating against anyone.
"That's my personal religious perspective. I would never put that on anyone," she said. "The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. I stand by the highest law of the land and our Supreme Court."
Vidak: "I've always believed that marriage is between a man and a woman," Vidak said.
But right now the legislature has no role to play in the issue, he said: "You have to follow what the Supreme Court said. Right now that's the law."
Question: What is the primary way you quickly bring jobs to the valley?
Vidak: "Turn on the pumps and start fracking. Without affordable, reliable water and affordable reliable energy, nothing can happen here," Vidak said. "Let government get out of our way and let us go after the resources we have. Everyone will do well. New industries will come in."
Perez: "You support the jobs that are right here and right now," Perez said. The critical issue "is fundamentally how we connect people to the jobs that are here. How do you propose to improve educational opportunities in valley schools?"
Education, she said, has to be diversified to give all students a shot at finding a job that fits their skills and talents.