BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Fran Florez dropped out of the 16th Senate District race Wednesday, avoiding an intra-party battle with Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez that could have imperiled Democrats’ chances of keeping the seat.
The decision came just hours before the California Democratic Party endorsed Perez, a move expected to open the state party’s financial floodgates for her.
CASH REPORTED SO FAR
Contributions have already started trickling in to the top two campaigns for Kern County's open 16th Senate District seat:
Contributions to Republican Andy Vidak
Bradford Steel Inc.$4,100
Connie Conway for Senate 2018$4,100
Dalena Farms Inc.$4,100
Golden Star Citrus Inc.$4,100
Hanse Farms Inc.$1,000
Janis D Hanse$500
Machado Farms, LP$1,000
Ben Curti Farms$2,000
F.M. Upton & Sons$2,000
Gebhardt Farm Management Inc.$4,100
Morris General Contracting Inc.$4,100
Rock'n JK Farms$2,500
Azcal Management Company$4,100
Colburn Cattle Company$2,000
Flying V Ranch$1,000
George D. Watte & Sons$1,000
Myers Bros. Well Drilling Inc.$1,500
Russell Waymire Farms$1,000
The Hall Company$3,000
Mid Valley Disposal$1,000
Terra Linda Farming Co.$1,000
Tos Farms Inc.$4,000
Verdegaal Brothers Inc.$4,100
Huron Tire LLC$1,000
Brooks Farms I$4,000
Freitas Triple J Irrevocable Trust$2,000
Granger Water Specialties$1,000
TLC, A California Partnership$1,000
Dairymans State PAC$1,000
Contributions to Democrat Leticia Perez
Major General Richard D. Roth USAF (Ret.) For Senate 2016$4,100
Steinberg for Senate 2010$8,200
Kevin De Leon for Assembly 2018$4,100
Kevin De Leon for Assembly 2018$4,100
FRAN FLOREZ'S STATEMENT
I have to announce today that I will be leaving the race for the 16th Senate District.
As I have reflected on this race to date, I confess that I am disappointed that our leaders have not allowed this race to proceed without putting the significant resources of the Democratic Party behind a single candidate.
I have been following the polls in the media as well and my campaign has been consistently listed as being "ahead" and in great position to win the primary. I must also admit to a great sense of frustration that this election cannot be decided by the people and through candidates marshaling their own local resources and volunteers.
My philosophy is simple but realistic - I always look to the logical and optimistic side of life; however, I understand that the business of politics is a complex animal and in most cases, often does not follow logic.
An important lesson is at hand. In 2010, I ran against another Democrat (Pete Parra) and the Democrat Party let us fight that battle without picking a side.
That election taught me that while I won the battle, the Democrats lost the war.
Our local residents were divided and in frustration, did not come out to vote in the next general election because they felt that their favorite Democrat lost.
Ultimately, this cost our party a seat in the Legislature and we spent a significant amount of time and effort reuniting as Democrats.
Division and infighting are two of the largest threats to our party -- and based on my years of experience, I have no doubt that this is exactly what will happen in this special election.
So, with all of that in mind, and with special thanks to all of those who have been with me in this and many other battles, today I step out of this important special election for Senate District 16. I am announcing this now in order to ensure that there is time to remove myself from the ballot and, most importantly, prevent history in the Valley from repeating itself.
This seat is much too important to lose to infighting in our party -- now or in a general election. Over the past two days, I have spent many hours calling my most loyal supporters -- they have told me, in person, that they are torn between personal loyalty and the wishes of the Democratic leadership.
I will not force my friends and backers to make that choice - especially one that threatens to divide the Democrats over two strong candidates and could potentially lead to a loss of the Senate seat.
Real leaders know when to step up and lead from the front and when their skills are best utilized by stepping aside and pointing the way to victory
I see a clear victory for Democrats in the making, and I am pointing us in the direction of "unity."
I stand ready to work to maintain a powerful and effective Democratic seat - one that my son, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, proudly served for nearly a decade.
I am honored to continue to serve as I have done for over two decades. I know, given my experience, that every exit is an entry somewhere else.
Thank you for your support!
And, political analyst Allan Hoffenblum said, Florez’s exit will give Perez the lead in the May 21 special primary election race, where she will face Kings County Republican Andy Vidak and possibly other less well-known candidates.
“She certainly has to be heavily favored. It’s all but a heavily favored Democratic district,” said Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book.
Perez said she was thrilled and humbled to have the support of the party and said she would work hard to win the seat.
Vidak campaign official Tim Orman said the race isn’t really about who he’s running against.
“Andy’s running on what he brings to the table and the conversation he wants to have with voters,” Orman said.
Florez said in a statement she was frustrated that the state party was about to endorse her rival in the primary and not allow local Democrats to fight for the seat independently.
But she said she couldn’t stay in the race knowing it might compromise Democrats’ chances to hold the post recently vacated by Michael Rubio.
“In 2010, I ran against another Democrat (Pete Parra), and the Democratic Party let us fight that battle without picking a side,” Florez wrote. “That election taught me that while I won the battle, the Democrats lost the war. Our local residents were divided and in frustration (and) did not come out to vote in the next general election because they felt that their favorite Democrat lost.
“Ultimately, this cost our party a seat in the Legislature, and we spent a significant amount of time and effort reuniting as Democrats. Division and infighting are two of the largest threats to our party — and based on my years of experience, I have no doubt that this is exactly what will happen in this special election,” she wrote.
That left the field wide open for Perez, who re-claimed the right to run for the 16th District seat Wednesday morning when she re-registered to vote at a new rental home on 18th Street in downtown Bakersfield.
Her previous home on Alta Vista Drive in east Bakersfield sits just outside the 16th District boundaries, and a debate over elections rules had thrown her eligibility into question.
“I admire Fran’s leadership and her vision for Democrats throughout the valley,” Perez said in reaction to Florez’s pull-out Wednesday afternoon. “This is going to be a tough race, and unity is going to be important. It’s important that we keep this seat for the best public servants in the valley.”
Hoffenblum said Perez’s primary weakness is that she won her Kern County Board of Supervisors seat less than a year ago and has only served since December. Perez’s Democratic supporters have expressed frustration at the quick move. But Hoffenblum said that liability may be less damaging for Perez in a head-to-head match-up with Vidak.
“Are (Democrats) going to want a hard-core conservative representing them?” he asked rhetorically.
Perez will need to move quickly to catch up with Vidak, a Hanford farmer who raised $112,400 between March 14 and March 26, according to his filings with the California Secretary of State’s office. Much of the money came from farmers in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
Perez had $20,500 Wednesday, according to her filings. Florez listed no contributions.
Tim Orman, of the Vidak campaign, said it will be working to raise as much money as it can in coming weeks.
“Andy’s a great person. He’s doing this not because he needs a job but because he feels he’s right for the district,” Orman said.
The California Republican Party has not yet endorsed Vidak, he said.
Perez, too, expects to receive the money needed to put up a strong fight.
“This race will be fully funded,” she said. “What’s important is that we can effectively deliver our message to the district.”
Florez decried state party involvement, including the support for Perez from the Senate Democratic Caucus, even as she backed out of the race.
“Over the past two days, I have spent many hours calling my most loyal supporters — they have told me, in person, that they are torn between personal loyalty and the wishes of the Democratic leadership,” Florez wrote. “I see a clear victory for Democrats in the making, and I am pointing us in the direction of ‘unity.’”
Perez said she appreciated Florez’s focus.
“I look forward to working with Fran,” Perez said. “I am really impressed with her record and her willingness to unify folks in the valley.”